South Africa Draws Up Plans So That Mass Burials Do Not Pollute Groundwater

They’ve seen the digging of trenches in Iran and New York. Now they’re preparing in case the worst comes to their country.

South African officials directed local authorities to survey sites that could be used as mass graves if death rates from the Covid-19 pandemic begin to soar, Reuters reports. The goal is to prevent groundwater contamination from hastily chosen burial grounds.

“If cemeteries are constructed and sited properly there is no additional risk of water contamination occurring due to COVID-19 burials,” Eunice Ubomba-Jaswa, a research manager at the Water Research Commission, said in an email to Reuters.

Little is known about the virus’s ability to survive in groundwater, though the risk of transmission to people is assumed to be low because it is a respiratory virus. But SARS-CoV-2 is not the only worry about burials. Chemicals used in the burial process can contaminate groundwater around cemeteries.

As of May 21, there were 18,003 confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Africa and 339 deaths. The death rate is beginning to rise, though. Nearly a quarter of deaths have come in the last three days.

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