Rules for burial during COVID-19 pandemic published
The World Health Organization has developed recommendations for the burial of people who died from coronavirus, and the Chief Public Hygiene Officer of Ukraine, Viktor Lyashko issued a special order with the corresponding requirements.
ZAXID.NET posts critical questions about funerals in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Is it possible to get a coronavirus infection from a man who died from coronavirus?
According to WHO, all the bodies of the dead are no longer infectious and do not emit the infection. This applies to most infections that are transmitted between people (including coronavirus), except for cholera or hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola or Marburg. So far, no cases have been confirmed that the infection was transmitted from a deceased person to a living person. However, the infection may remain on the body or clothing of the deceased.
Can I get a coronavirus at a funeral?
This danger exists – and not only at the funeral of a person who died of coronavirus. According to recent studies, coronavirus is not transmitted by air – it can be transmitted through droplets, surfaces where the infection is present, and through the close contact between people. If the funeral is attended by a person who is sick with coronavirus, or there are infected surfaces, then you can fall ill through contact with them. A similar situation occurred in Ternopil region, where several people were infected with COVID-19 after attending a funeral.
How can I avoid this?
WHO advises children, people older than 60 years and immunosuppressive people to avoid direct contact with the body when attending the funeral of a person who died from coronavirus. Everyone present should adhere to the rules of personal hygiene, in particular, wash their hands with soap. According to the order of the Chief Public Hygiene Officer of Ukraine, Viktor Lyashko, when burying those who died from coronavirus, it is allowed to stay in a room for no more than one person per 10 square meters at a time, while ensuring at least a 1.5 m distance between people.
It should be added that now Ukraine stays under the quarantine and all related restrictions on people gatherings in one place continue, so these rules can also apply to funerals of people who died for other causes than coronavirus.
Do I need to wear a medical mask to a funeral?
This is not required. According to WHO recommendations, if you do not directly come into contact with the body of a person who has died from coronavirus, additional protection is not required – just follow the rules of personal hygiene, in particular, wash your hands with soap. Medical masks should be worn by people who have symptoms of SARS - to avoid spreading infection in the room and infecting others. Overall, WHO recommends that such people refrain from attending the funerals.
Is it possible to bury the people who died from COVID-19 in regular cemeteries?
Yes. There are no restrictions on this either in the WHO recommendations or in the requirements of the chief public hygiene officer.
How do I prepare the body for burial?
Funeral services are not banned from work during the quarantine, so you can entrust this issue to them. Basically, people who prepare a body for burial (in a hospital, funeral service, or at home) should adhere to the usual rules of safety and personal hygiene, in particular, disinfect/wash their hands before and after contact with the deceased, and use appropriate protective equipment – depending on the level of contact with the body – including dressing gowns (preferably) and gloves (mandatory).
There is no need for special protective suits, according to who recommendations. Clothing that was on the person during the preparation of the body for burial, and other things that were used in this case, should be immediately washed in a washing machine at a temperature of 60-90 degrees.
Since infection can remain on various surfaces, it is important to disinfect surfaces, tools, and equipment that have come into contact with the body. Medical waste that remains after preparing the body for burial should be disposed of.
Should the body be cremated?
This is not required. The fact that the deceased must be cremated is a myth because the body itself no longer transmits the infection. Cremation depends on the cultural customs of the country and the resources available for this, the WHO maintains. Bodies can be cremated or buried.
Can the body be embalmed?
This is not recommended. WHO does not recommend embalming, because it involves excessive manipulation of the body.
Do I need to disinfect the body and put the body in a special bag?
Yes. According to the order of the Chief Public Hygiene Officer of Ukraine Viktor Lyashko, the bodies of those who died from coronavirus need to be disinfected with a chlorine-containing solution and placed in a sealed bag, and then in a coffin. Although, according to WHO recommendations, this is not necessary, as well as using some special transport to move the body.
Should the body be buried/cremated immediately after death?
WHO notes that hasty disposal of bodies should be avoided, the dignity of the deceased should be respected and the local rules and customs should be adhered to, but at the same time advises that once the body is prepared for burial, it should be transported as quickly as possible to the place of burial or cremation. The WHO recommendations do not contain restrictions on religious rites, neither the Chief Public Officer of Ukraine has imposed any.
Can I kiss the deceased?
No, you cannot. WHO prohibits the people who come to bid the last farewell to the deceased to kiss or touch their bodies. Also, according to the decree of Viktor Lyashko, the body of a person who died from coronavirus should be placed in a sealed bag, and the burial or cremation should be carried out in a tightly closed coffin, which makes direct contact with the body impossible.
People who lower the coffin into the grave or perform cremation should wear gloves, remove them immediately after burial, and wash their hands with soap.
Can I hold a wake?
This is not recommended. WHO recommends that the ceremonies that do not involve the burial itself should be postponed as long as possible until the end of the epidemic, to avoid excessive crowding. If a wake is still being held, WHO recommends limiting the number of people present, while observing social distance and personal hygiene rules. The requirements approved by the chief public hygiene officer allow a maximum of one person per 10 square meters to be present in the room during burial and a 1.5 m distance between people.
And one more thing
In Ukraine, local governments and the special enterprises run by them must keep records of people who attended funerals, noting the date and time, last name, first name and patronymic, as well as their residential address and contact phone number.
The WHO notes: since the Covid-19 coronavirus is a new and not yet fully understood infection, the recommendations for burial may change in the future.