AN environmental health practitioner (EHP) from the Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM), was assaulted earlier this month while on duty at a funeral in KuNdonga, EQaqeni in Cacadu.
The woman was attacked by family members of the bereaved, over issues regarding non-compliance with COVID-19 regulations.
In a media statement following the assault, Executive Mayor Wongama Gela said incidents like these were disturbing and unfortunate, particularly at a time where lives are lost due to this deadly virus.
“As communities continue to navigate and adjust during this ongoing pandemic, it is important for all of us to understand that we all have a part to play in limiting the spread of the coronavirus,” said Gela.
Following standard protocol, the official had earlier been notified by the Department of Health (DOH) that the deceased had succumbed to COVID-19.
Family members who had been in close contact with the deceased were subsequently tested for the virus.
Before the funeral, officials from the DOH, together with the EHP, visited the family to present the results of all those who had been tested.
Since several of the deceased’s close contacts had tested positive, officials also conducted an awareness programme on COVID-19 regulations and related policies.
Soon after the arrival of the body at the family’s precincts from where the funeral would be conducted, the widow of the deceased allegedly contacted the CDHM health practitioner requesting guidance.
Working with the funeral parlour, the official identified non-compliance issues which posed a serious risk to those who were present, as well as their prospective contacts.
A complete disregard for social distancing by church members, attendee numbers which exceeded the regulated number, a poorly constructed grave with inadmissible material and demands by the family to see the sealed body were some of the health threats the environmental health practitioner identified.
The alleged assault started when furious family members attacked the official for persistently advising against non-compliance with health and safety precautionary measures. The distraught official was forced to abandon the funeral site, following insults and being chased by an angry mob who also allegedly confiscated her cellphone.
Gela extended his immense gratitude to the funeral parlour officials who had tried to calm the situation, recovered the phone and rescued the official, who later managed to escape to safety.
Police were dispatched to the area and a case of assault was opened at the Cacadu police station.
Gela condemned the poor conduct of funeral attendees and pleaded with families to conform to COVID-19 regulations, while appealing to community members to refrain from stigmatising those who tested positive.
“Our focus must be on fighting the spread of the virus and we must collectively make our contribution in flattening the curve. Our EHPs have been on the ground across the district to create awareness and monitor funerals, and they are doing so to save lives,” the mayor concluded his statement.
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