The government directed that the families of victims who had succumbed to Coronavirus (COVID-19) had up to 24 hours to collect their kin’s bodies from the mortuary, failure of which they would be buried by the state.
This, according to government pathologist Dr Johansen Oduor was aimed to curb the spread of COVID-19 which most likely gets infectious through piling up of bodies.
The government went as far as offering to provide logistical support including transportation to have the bodies buried as soon as possible.
“To avoid a situation where we have so many bodies lying in the mortuary and these are bodies that are potentially infectious we came to that decision of having that directive that bodies be buried within 24 hours of death,” said Oduor during a recent interview with Citizen TV.
The bizarre incident where a KPA employee who is said to have succumbed to COVID-19 being buried in the wee hours of the night in Siaya County has ignited mixed reactions, with netizens angered by the “not so decent send-off.”
It ignited the debate on the instructions and guidelines regarding the burial of COVID-19 victims.
Following the outrage, the Ministry of Health has issued guidelines and directives on the safe disposal of the bodies of patients who have succumbed to COVID-19.
The guidelines were developed in correspondence with the World Health Organization (WHO) public Act Cap 242, of the Laws of Kenya.
Health workers, family and people involved in the burial management are expected to adhere to the guidelines as a mandatory requirement.
There are three main processes involved which are:
- Identification of the Deceased.
- Certification of Death.
- Disposal of Human Remains (Body).
According to the guidelines, the disposal of human remains is expected to be conducted in a manner that curbs infection and is culturally appropriate to the deceased.
Ideally, deaths that will be reported outside a health facility such as a hospital will be reported through established guidelines to notify of deaths from infectious disease causes.
Further, if the preliminary investigations suggest a natural death not relating to Coronavirus, then the deceased will be properly identified and the body might be transported to a funeral home or crematorium with the certification of a competent health professional.
However, if the preliminary investigations indicate death by Coronavirus, then the Ministry of Health will be notified where it will assume the jurisdiction to determine the need for laboratory confirmation and autopsy.
Additionally, the family will be well informed about the dignified process detailing the religious and personal rights to show respect to the dead before commencing on handling the remains.
The funeral plans will be handled by a committee consisting of a family representative, a public health officer, a local administrator (Chief or Assistant Chief), security among other health officials necessary.
Here is the process to be followed before burial:
- Arrival of the body disposal team.
- Staff expected not to wear PPE upon arrival.
- Introduction to the family through greeting and offering of condolences before unloading necessary materials from the vehicles. (Request respectfully for a family representative).
- The communicator to liaise with the family representative regarding the final rights.
The team handling the body will then be required to put on the protective gear, spray the body before putting it in the body bags.
If a coffin is available, it will be placed outside the house to be used by the health officials in full protective equipment.
Finally, a family representative in gloves will be required to close the coffin, it will then be disinfected and the body interred.
After the burial, the clothes, rooms and other items that the deceased might have interacted with will be disinfected by the health officials before leaving.
Currently, the country has confirmed 8 fatalities due to COVID-19.