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How tech is helping us adapt to funerals under COVID-19

With lockdown rules solely permitting 50 mourners at funeral providers, for a lot of households, this has created a tricky balancing act between selecting who will get to attend in particular person and making certain that those that cannot attend don’t really feel excluded.

FILE: Undertakers from the Avbob funeral home arrive on the Doornkop cemetery in Soweto, South Africa, on 21 July 2020 for a funeral. Picture: MARCO LONGARI/AFP

JOHANNESBURG – Comfort, neighborhood and closeness. These outline what these mourning family members want most of their time of grief. However, for nearly a year since South Africa went into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, this has had to drastically change and we have had adapt to a brand new manner of paying our final respects.



With lockdown rules solely permitting 50 mourners at funeral providers, for a lot of households, this has created a tricky balancing act between selecting who will get to attend in particular person and and making certain that those that cannot attend don’t really feel excluded.

Families have additionally been urged to bury family members who’ve succumbed to COVID-19 inside 72 hours of their passing, which means those that are far-off might not be ready to attend.

To attempt to accommodate everybody and think about all the standards in place, households are turning to know-how to assist bridge the hole. Virtual funerals, one thing beforehand accomplished by information corporations to broadcast broadly through the funerals of high-profile folks, have turn into a viable answer not just for mourners however for media companies who’re struggling to make ends meet through the pandemic.

Mark Donough, a good friend, mentor and father determine to many who knew him, was cherished and well-known within the Athlone, Hanover Park and Mitchells Plain communities in Cape Town.

His passing got here as a shock and saddened many who knew him or in some unspecified time in the future have been touched by his life.

Barry Reid (left) and his shut good friend Mark Donough (proper) who died on 8 January 2021. Picture: Supplied.

Planning his funeral, understanding how well-known he was, meant his household and associates had to take a look at how they might enable all those that wished to be part of his send-off.

“Mark was an extremely well-known person and we actually would’ve needed a stadium to host his funeral. Sadly, COVID-19 restrictions do not allow more than 50 people at a funeral. We had to have it streamed virtually to allow all the people who couldn’t be there, a part of the celebration of his life. It is definitely the norm nowadays for restrictions”, Donough’s long-time friend Barry Reid told Eyewitness News.

“It was very consoling to know that anyone, anywhere in the world, could watch the celebration, and that because it was online, they could watch it in their own time as well. It is also good to know that the risk of spreading the virus is lessened due to there not being more people,” he stated.

Reid defined that through the planning of a digital funeral, it was essential to discover a respected company to deal with the filming and streaming of the funeral and the planning course of.

“By having a company handle it, you won’t have issues that a cellphone social media livestream can have like songs being cut, messages coming through whilst you are filming, signal loss, camera angles etc. It is also important to have a good coordinator who can run the day for you. Ensuring that all pictures and clips are of high quality as well.”



Ryan Kinman runs a media company that ordinarily handles many dwell occasions. When lockdown was first introduced in March 2020, his company had R500,000 value of upcoming occasions cancel on him instantly. This left him with nearly no work lined up, apart from just a few small conferences and livestream occasions that allowed him to make some type of earnings because the lockdown eased via the year.

This, nevertheless, didn’t final very lengthy as reverting again to stage 3 lockdown in late December resulted within the cancellation of occasions value R250,000 scheduled for January.

“Towards the end of last year, I decided to take the last bit of money the company had and invest it into a small live-stream system. It was a Hail Mary for the company,” Kinman advised Eyewitness News.

He defined how, at first, the concept of doing business by providing funeral livestreams appeared taboo to many.

“I was accused of stealing from the dead and trying to enrich myself during the pandemic, but eventually people started seeing the benefit of the service. It’s not a service I ever thought I would offer and to be honest, I’m not sure that I want to do it. But I have no choice, I need to feed my family and pay bills.”

Thami Mtwa, whose media company additionally floor to a halt after lockdown, had already been providing livestreams earlier than restrictions have been in place.

In mid-December, he ventured into funeral livestreams, providing packages starting from R6,500 to R25,000. This, nevertheless, is but to steer his business again onto a path of wholesome revenue because it’s nonetheless a brand new or uncomfortable idea to many.

“We are still trying to get more access to the market and convince local funeral parlours to add our services within their packages. We also recently started marketing ourselves on all social media platforms,” he stated.

With funerals being a crimson zone for the unfold of the virus throughout the nation, each Kinman and Mtwa stated whereas they have been involved and have been being as cautious as they might to forestall an infection, business should go on for them and their employees to earn a dwelling.

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