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The Gauteng Department of Health has announced that it has 898 unclaimed and unidentified bodies at its public mortuaries in 2020 and 2021.

While it’s still a staggering number of bodies, it is still less than in previous years. In 2019 and 2020 there were 1 173 bodies, while the public mortuaries had 1 117 recorded bodies in 2018 and 2019.

According to the department’s spokesperson, Kwara Kekana, the decline in numbers for 2020 and 2021 is due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

News24 reports that in 2020 and 2021, Kekana said that there was a decline in the number of bodies stored at government mortuaries.

“About 16 243 bodies were stored for that period which was less than the 18 324 bodies stored in 2019 and 2020 and the 17 940 bodies stored in 2018 and 2019.”

Not considering the impact that the pandemic has had, the number of unclaimed and unidentified bodies keep rising every year. To combat that, Kekana said that the department is in the process of developing a system to help them.

The Gauteng Forensic Pathology Information Management System should be completed by the end of 2022. Kekana said the system will be used for various of its functions like recording, tracking and reporting demographic data of the deceased persons, as well as generating autopsy and toxicology reports.

Currently, the only way to identify these bodies is through fingerprints. Kekana said that the Forensic Pathology Service is working with the police to identify the bodies and then trace the deceased people’s families to inform them.

Image credit: News24

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