Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Covid 19: Botswana’s undertaker’s pockets, hands full

The Covid 19 pandemic has affected countless businesses across the economy – most for the worse. Some, including the funeral parlour business are however thriving but also overwhelmed.

This past week, leading Funeral Service business in the country reported growth in their business compared to last year owing to the increasing number of Covid 19 deaths. Botswana registered 1375 Covid 19 sponsored deaths by Thursday this past week according to the Presidential Task Force team.

Pule Funeral Service General Manager Morobi Solomon indicated that although this year has proven to be fruitful for the business, the parlor however continues to be overwhelmed by large numbers of corpses.

“Last year the business was low, not that we want people to die, but it was bad because of lockdown, but since this year as you have already seen how government is overwhelmed as well, the business has massively picked”

“We have now resorted to advising parents of the deceased persons to pick up the corpses on an average of 3 days because we are receiving a high number of deceased persons,” said Solomon.

Solomon added that although the business continues to be overwhelmed, they prepared well in advance, further saying that they embarked on a benchmark exercise to their South African counterpart to see how they are coping with the increasing numbers.

“We had to prepare ourselves well in advance in terms of resources because initially we used to have all fridges in one room, so we had to change that because there are people who die of covid and those who die of natural death”

“We also had to ensure that we readily avail PPE’s, and we have also ensured that staff always go for counselling because they have experienced such a surge” added Solomon.

Solomon further said 60% of their caskets are sourced from South Africa while only 40% is produced locally.

For their part, Dove Parlor Managing Director, Cecil Soutter also said although this has been a good year for business, his 38-capacity holding mortuary is overwhelmed.

Soutter said as a result, they have opened more branches across the country in order to cope with the demand.

“We have the largest fridges in Gaborone which is 38-capacity and we ensure that bodies are taken in instantly”

“Obviously compared to last year, there has been a surge and we are always ready to assist” said Soutter.

He further said although he recently had a challenge with the availability of caskets due to riots in South Africa, the situation has been restored.

“We had a problem with casket stock because we source ours from South Africa, I have had a 20 year relationship with our supplier in South Africa but just last week, we had a problem as they could not transport them due to riots but when the stock arrived it immediately finished, so you can see how the business is currently” saic Soutter.

Soutter further said although the demand has gone up, he has no intentions of hiking prices.

“This is a time when we should be assisting each other, so I have no intention to adjust my prices especially during a pandemic such as this one”

“People are mourning and this is not the right time to capitalize on people’s grieving” said Soutter.

Meanwhile, government recently suspended its 3-day waiting period of corpses in public health facilities citing pressure.


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