Principal Secretary (Revenue) Manjunatha Prasad’s order sets out SOP for such cases
Face of the victim can be viewed, rituals that don’t involve touching body are allowed
Faced with a spiralling number of Covid deaths in Karnataka, especially in Bengaluru, and the attendant strain on the official infrastructure for the disposal of bodies, the state government has shown a degree of flexibility by permitting the kin of Covid victims to bury the bodies in family-owned farmhouses or land.
An order to this effect, applicable immediately, was issued by N Manjunatha Prasad, Principal Secretary, Revenue (Disaster Management), and Member-Secretary, State Executive Committee, on Wednesday.
The decision has come in the backdrop of requests by families of Covid victims to allow cremation/burial of the body in land/farm houses owned by the family members/relatives.
Prasad’s order refers to the growing number of Covid deaths in the state and considers it “prudent to swiftly and respectfully dispose of the body in a decentralised manner, keeping in view the grieving circumstance and to avoid crowding in crematoriums/burial grounds.”
The order notes that such permission is given subject to the kin of the deceased strictly adhering to the relevant protocol.
The SOP set out in the order is as follows:
a. The body, secured in a body bag, the exterior of which is decontaminated, poses no additional risk to the staff transporting the dead body.
b. The personnel handling the body may follow standard precautions (surgical mask, gloves, and apron).
c. Instructions shall be given to the drivers of the hearse to handle the body in a dignified manner without causing distress to the family and relatives.
d. The vehicle, after the transfer of the body to the cremation/burial staff, will be disinfected with 1% sodium hypochlorite solution.
e. In case of inter-district or inter-state transportation of confirmed or suspected Covid bodes, the hospital/medical ofﬁcer should issue the death certificate in the prescribed format along with a test report. All other precautions as mentioned above shall be followed during transportation.
f. In case the transportation is being done by the relatives, all safety steps should be informed along with the “Do’s and Don’ts” speciﬁed above, and if possible a health worker may travel with the dead body to the burial ground/crematorium to ensure that these protocols/guidelines are followed.
- At the crematorium/burial ground
a. The crematorium/burial ground staff should be sensitized that handling of Covid-l9 bodies needs special precautions.
b. The staff will practise standard precautions of hand hygiene, use of masks and gloves.
c. Those placing the body in the grave, on the funeral pyre, etc, should wear a full PPE kit. Once the burial/cremation is complete, after removal of the gloves, they shall wash their hands with soap and water.
d. Viewing of the dead body by unzipping the face end of the body bag (by the staff using standard precautions) shall be allowed, for the family members/relatives/friends.
e. Rituals such as reading from religious scriptures, sprinkling holy water and any other last rites that does not require touching of the body shall be allowed.
f. It is a custom in the Indian tradition to bathe, hug, embrace the departed with grief and reverence, which should be best avoided in view of the safety of the kith and kin of the departed.
g. The funeral/burial staff and family members should compulsorily perform hand hygiene after cremation/burial.
h. The ash does not pose any risk and can be collected to perform the last rites.
i. The number of persons during the funeral/last rites shall be as per the prevailing guidelines issued by the government. The people attending the funeral/last rites shall strictly follow Covid appropriate behaviour.
j. Children, older people aged more than 60 years, and people with respiratory symptoms should compulsorily wear a medical mask and maintain strict physical distancing.
k. In a confirmed/suspected Covid-19 death, either the burial or cremation of the dead body should be done in a dignified manner depending upon the cultural and religious traditions of the family of the deceased. At all times, to the extent that the present protocol is not violated, the family may be allowed to carry out any traditions as may be necessary.