Coronavirus News Africa

81-year-old Bo-Kaap woman dies of Covid-19


An 81-year-old Bo-Kaap woman, who was being treated for pneumonia and then tested positive for Covid-19, has died.

Kulsum Cassiem was buried early on Sunday, in accordance with her faith.

“We don’t know how she got it. She was not one to go out a lot,” Masturah Adams, Community Operations Leader of the Covid-19 Bo-Kaap Community Response Team, told News24.

Adams said Cassiem’s four sons are finding comfort in Islam and their belief that she has returned to God. 

Their mother had been feeling slightly ill recently, but took a bad turn and was admitted to hospital. She was diagnosed with pneumonia. 

She had been doing as well as could be but a subsequent test revealed she had also contracted Covid-19, which is known to complicate recoveries.

Adams said her family had not been able to visit her because of strict isolation protocols, but nurses were kind enough to allow phone calls. They would hold the telephone close, so she could speak to her family from her hospital bed. 

“She was doing well, resting,” said Adams. 

Light moment of laughter

She said during their last conversation with her she sounded very calm, and there was even a light moment of laughter. 

Shortly after, she closed her eyes and died. 

Adams said her family was grieving but also at peace with the help of their faith. 

Adams grew up four doors down from Cassiem and remembers her as a devout Muslim and a “lovely, kind, person”. 

“She made the best samosas. We also used to eat her leftover samosa pastry when we were children – people call it papa bites now,” she said fondly. 

No vigil because of lockdown

Although accepting of her death, the Covid-19 protocols mean her family and friends could not perform many of the rituals that help bring peace and comfort. The community could not gather at her home to pray or hold a vigil.

In a post on Facebook, her family said they were saddened but accepted that “it was her time to return”.

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Cassiem’s burial was undertaken very quickly at the Mowbray Cemetery in the early hours of Sunday, in line with new instructions on burials, and the guidelines of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC).

Adams said the Bo-Kaap Community Response Team was formed before the lockdown because the area is a favourite tourist stop. Although there was controversy over their early moves to protect the community from Covid-19, they were pleased it was done. 

Food parcels, emotional support

The team is divided into various tasks: delivering food parcels for people who cannot go out, emotional support to people who are worried, and helping people who feel they have symptoms get early screening. This is being done through WhatsApp groups to limit physical contact.  

Adams said she was looking forward to a visit by a Department of Health to screen residents in the area on Tuesday.


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