The National Funeral Practitioners Association of South Africa (NFPASA) says more and more undertakers and burial staff are losing their lives to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The association says the industry also faces challenges of high demand for coffins and an increase in policy cancellations.
Tshipi-Noto funeral home started in Delmas, Mpumalanga and has been in business for 19 years, however, the General Manager at the funeral home, says the years of experience couldn’t prepare them for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tshipi-Noto General Manager Thabiso Moumakoe says, “We are all scared of the virus, we’ve seen the impact of the virus, and the people that are coming into our offices are aware that this is a different variant. This one is a bit more aggressive so just like everybody else we are sacred as a business…”
“We are scared as human beings not only for ourselves but also for our families. We are also battling to get a choice or variety of coffins. We get whatever they have, we just take and hopefully our clients are comfortable with what we have,” added Moumakoe.
He says the start of the New Year is usually the least busy time of the year, but considering the country’s current state, employees say they are bracing themselves for more burials.
Funeral undertakers have pinned their hopes on South Africa getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
NFPASA says their affiliates are losing staff to the virus.
Business not booming’
Contrary to what many believe, business is in fact not booming for funeral parlours and burial services. The increasing number of cases and subsequent deaths put the business in jeopardy.
“This is definitely not a business boom for us. We are not making money from this because operational costs have gone up. The lockdown has also led to cancellation of policies. Some don’t have money to bury and we have to find a way to help them,” says Moumakoe.
Sisonke funerals, which has a branch in South Africa and Zimbabwe, offers services to those hailing from SADC countries. The director of the business, David Mlilo, anticipates he will be frequenting these countries.
“I spent my new year’s eve on the way to Zimbabwe. I will be going out again tomorrow or Tuesday… When you get to the place you to bury someone, there are different scenarios. There was one where they told me I had to get the body out of the house. We had to carry the body ourselves to the grave. If we get those vaccines, it will be easier for us. It will make our lives easier.”
As January 4, the country breached the 30 000 mark for the cumulative of COVID related deaths.