Zimbabwe’s government on Monday banned families from transporting the bodies of people who recently died to their city of origin for burial — a local custom in the southern African nation — as part of an effort to control the spread of the Chinese coronavirus.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police [ZRP] advises the public that the Ministry of Health and Child Care has informed the police of immediate restrictions imposed on the movement of dead bodies for burial in the country,” ZPR spokesman Paul Nyathi said on January 11, according to New Zimbabwe.
“According to health officials, a body will now be buried in town/city where the death would have taken place. This is being done in order to curtail the spread of the Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] pandemic,” he said.
“The announcement stops the custom where families take the dead to their areas of birth for ceremonies and burial. Police have also banned public viewing of bodies and the tradition of having a corpse stay overnight in the family’s home before burial,” the Associated Press noted on Monday.
According to the new measures, during burials, “mourners are implored to keep a distance as bodies of loved ones are lowered into graves by either city health or funeral parlor officials,” New Zimbabwe reported.
“The gravesite will be disinfected before burial. Police commanders have been advised to ensure that the government’s directives is complied with [sic],” Nyathi added on Monday.
Zimbabwe’s Information Ministry permanent secretary, Nick Mangwana, urged citizens to accept the “unusual measure.”
“Government respects the cultural and customary preferences expressed by the deceased and/or their families in burial matters,” Mangwana said on January 11.
“However, we are in unusual days, where we are fighting for our very lives. To curtail the spread of Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus], people now need to be buried in towns of their deaths,” he said.
New Zimbabwe noted the federal government’s failure to offer “any land or alternative free of charge grave sites [sic].”
“A decent grave in the country costs between US$150 and US$500 with rates now likely to go up as demand increases,” according to the online newspaper.
A recent surge in Chinese coronavirus infections across Zimbabwe prompted the ban on traditional funeral rites. The country recorded 978 new daily cases and 24 additional deaths from the Chinese coronavirus on January 9. The majority of the new infections were documented in the national capital, Harare.
Zimbabwe’s government has officially recorded 22,297 infections and 528 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus since it announced its first case of the virus on March 20, 2020.