South Africa’s municipalities should find sites where mass graves can be located for Covid-19 victims, health minister Zweli Mkhize has directed.
Cremation is "highly recommended", but if the death rate overwhelms storage capacity, the state may conduct mass burials.
It will be up to municipalities to ensure that remains can later be identified.
Burial services for Covid-19 victims are now limited to two hours, with strict rules for family members who wish to handle bodies.
South Africa’s towns and cities should find suitable spots for mass graves, health minister Zweli Mkhize directed on Monday, in new regulations detailing how the mortal remains of Covid-19 victims should be handled.
“Should the death rate appear to exceed the capacity of available space to keep mortal remains, the government may intervene to facilitate mass burials," he said.
"Municipalities should ensure that a mass burial is done in consideration of human dignity and necessary controls should be put in place to ensure that mortal remains can be identified."
In April Mkhize gave municipalities and provinces a tight deadline to report how many bodies they could store.
See also | No kissing the dead: SA now has rules on how to handle Covid-19 mortal remains
Under the rules published on Monday, which are immediately in force, mortuaries may not keep bodies for more than three days, and "government may intervene" if remains are not claimed within two days.
"Non-Covid-19 mortal remains" must be buried or cremated within ten days.
The new regulations also lay out, in considerable detail, how bodies should be handled and burials must be conducted.
Burial services should be as short as possible, and are now limited to two hours.
Cremation is "highly recommended", and embalming is not recommended, nor is any handling of the body by family members.
Family may dress a body at a funeral parlour, Mkhize said, but only if they wear personal protective equipment.
Only close family members should attend a funeral for someone who dies of any infectious disease, under the regulations.
Family members must also wear gloves and masks for any viewing of a body.