The uncollected dead of Covid-19

A new directive from the health department that anyone who dies of natural causes outside a hospital be tested for Covid-19 before a death certificate is issued has thrown the funeral industry into confusion.

The instruction, issued on Wednesday by health director-general Sandile Buthelezi, has sparked anger and confusion among undertakers and health professionals who say it will delay burials and pose health risks.

The directive states that "testing must be done before the human remain[s] are released to the funeral undertaker".

The new regulation is aimed at improving statistics on the number of Covid-19-positive people dying outside of hospitals. This data could affect SA's Covid-19 death toll, which is currently 2%. Health experts believe the number could be four times higher.