The Muslim burial rite of bathing a body before the funeral may be waived if those performing it are not trained to deal with Covid-19 and not wearing protective gear.
According to Deanna Bessick, spokeswoman for the province’s emergency medical services (EMS) and forensic pathology services, the virus – spread by droplets, either from person-to-person or from contaminated surfaces – can still be active on a body a week after death.
The virus can survive on surfaces for some time (hours to days) depending on the environment and surface.
“The exact time is not known; it is therefore critical that the deceased and the clothing and the property of the deceased is treated as infectious,” Ms Bessick said.
Workshops would be held to explain the procedures for those preparing Covid-19-infected bodies for burial, she said.
Covid-19 deaths, she added, were deemed to be death due to natural causes so the cases would not be admitted to the forensic pathology services.
The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) has set out guidelines for Covid-19 janaa-iz (funerals) in accordance with precautions set out by the Western Cape Department of Health.
The MJC guide was signed by second deputy president Sheikh Riad Fataar and updated on Thursday April 2.
It says personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn by those washing the body; and the ghusl (wash) facility, bier and hearse must be disinfected.
The ghusl must be performed by a registered Muslim undertaker and a trained toekamanie (washer).
Two people in full PPE may conduct the ghusl and two others, also kitted out, may assist.
If these requirements are not met the “ghusl must not take place” says the MJC statement.
“The mayit (deceased) will only be placed in two plastic bags and thereafter, be wrapped in a kafan (shrouded in a white cloth).”
All cotton, cloths, swabs and the clothing the deceased wore at the time of death must be discarded as medical waste.
No touching or kissing of the forehead or any other part of the mayit is allowed.