The families of patients who die as a result of the COVID-19 virus will not be able to retain possession of their corpses.
Instead, health officials say while they are trying to observe religious protocols and ensure cultural sensitivity is upheld, they have to be mindful of the potential threats posed to the remaining population.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram explained, “Our process is basically adopted from the World Health Organization. We did have consultations with the various religious groups as well to refine it a little bit and make sure we are culturally sensitive as well.”
He went on, “The basis on which we based our process is that the deceased body can spread COVID-19 and there must be limited if not, little or no contact with another individual unless they are wearing the appropriate PPE so we will limit spread of the virus.”
Parasram stressed, “In terms of the family being allowed custody, the body will usually go in these cases, from the hospital to the funeral home and then directly to the grave site or the crematorium. There is no home visit. There is no church visit. There is no visit to a place of worship in these cases.”
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said officials from the Undertakers Association of T&T met with the CEO of the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) to come up with protocols to deal with the disposal of bodies – whether via burial or cremation.
Referring to the devastating effects of the Ebola virus which had decimated world populations, Deyalsingh said, “I want to remind the population that the epidemic spread of Ebola was so bad at that time because people did not understand that handling the body…the virus was still alive and in Africa, you have rituals that demand the family actually wash the body themselves and that caused an explosion in the cases of Ebola.”
He added, “So we must learn from that experience and apply similar protocols to COVID-19 because as the Chief Medical Officer said, it is still possible that when you have a deceased person, you can still have infection.”