First Covid-19 deceased laid to rest

Funeral draws mixed emotions

14 July 2020 | Health

Walvis Bay

The first person (45) who died of Covid-19 in Namibia was laid to rest in Narraville Walvis Bay today.

The governor of the Erongo region Neville Andre confirmed telephonically that the deceased would be buried.

Andre said that strict World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols, guidelines and standard operating procedures would be enforced at Covid-19 related funerals.

A small group of relatives, ministry of health officials, army personnel, council officials and operators of earthmoving machinery working at the burial site, were in attendance at the solemn ceremony.

The burial was preceded by a site visit and inspection by health ministry and military staff.

A convoy of vehicles arrived at 17:00 and proceeded to the burial area where what appeared to be a service was conducted.

Andre, who also witnessed the proceedings from a distance, confirmed that the municipality made the site available for the interment of Covid-19 related deaths after a request by the ministry of health and social services.

During the burial proceedings, a group of men clad in white protective suits were observed carrying the body of the deceased to its final resting place.

A frontend loader covered the grave with sand while family members dispersed, and the group of officials who handled the burial were sanitised and left the area.

Worried residents

By this time a large group of worried residents living in the area nearby had converged, observing the proceedings from a distance. Many said they were furious that the municipality had not consulted or informed them of the fact that persons who have died of Covid-19 would be buried within such close proximity to their homes.

The deputy minister of urban and rural development Derek Klazen, who is a resident of the harbour town and resides in Narraville, called for calm.

“It is a sad day and the death of this patient came as a shock for us all. This person is a Namibian and we should pay our last respects. Walvis Bay is regarded as the Covid-19 epicentre and it appears if things are getting worse. Decongesting portions of Kuisebmond is therefore of utmost importance. The ministry is in talks with the NHE to avail erven for this purpose. My personal opinion is that we should fast track Farm 37 to decongest Kuisebmond.”

Municipal regulations

An official from the municipality said earlier this week that graves for persons who die of Covid-19 would be dug to a depth of 2.5 metres.

“Such persons are not buried in coffins, but in body bags. They are also injected with a certain substance to ensure that their bodies disintegrate completely within a number of days,” the official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He gave the assurance that the area allocated for Covid-19 related deaths would be properly sealed off to prevent members of the public from accessing it.

The sketch plan for the proposed new Narraville cemetery indicates that the allocated site for Covid-19 related deaths measures approximately 51 920m by 42 900m and is located in a corner situated at the far end of the envisioned cemetery.

The completed cemetery will be established approximately 1.5km from the newly constructed Extension 7. The cemetery forms part of the town planning, and land was set aside for this purpose by council.

The arrival of Covid-19 resulted in the construction of the cemetery being fast tracked.

In the 2017, the municipality of Walvis Bay budgeted N$60 million for community projects, which amongst others, included the construction of a new cemetery in Narraville.

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