DOH urged to ease rules on families of coronavirus deaths
MANILA, Philippines – Former University of the Philippines (UP) chancellor Michael Tan, a medical anthropologist, has urged the Department of Health (DOH) to ease some of its rules on the families of people who who died of COVID-19.
Citing the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tan said that deceased COVID-19 patients can no longer spread the virus, which is primarily transmitted through sneezing or coughing.
"This is where I also ask the DOH to loosen up their restrictions, because right now, its guidelines require that the bodies should be cremated within 12 hours," Tan said in mix of English and Filipino during a media forum hosted by the DOH.
Tan added that relatives of COVID-19 fatalities should be allowed to see their remains, but embracing and touching would not be permitted, as provided under the WHO guidelines.
Under DOH guidelines on wakes and burials of COVID-19 fatalities, bodies must be placed in cadaver bags which are wrapped, sealed and sprayed with sodium hydrochloride, and cremated within 12 hours.
Here are some key points from the WHO on the safe management of COVID-19 fatalities:
- Family and friends may view the body after it has been prepared for burial, in accordance with customs. But they should not touch or kiss the body and should wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after the viewing.
- People with respiratory symptoms should not participate in the viewing or at least wear a medical mask.
- Those tasked with placing the body in the grave and on the funeral pyre, should wear gloves and wash hands with soap and water after removal of the gloves once the burial is complete.
- Although burials should take place in a timely manner, in accordance with local practices, funeral ceremonies not involving the burial should be postponed, as much as possible, until the end of the epidemic.
- Apply principles of cultural sensitivity and ensure that family members reduce their exposure as much as possible. Children, and adults 60 years old and above, and immunosuppressed persons should not directly interact with the body.
Reports about unclaimed cadavers at the East Avenue Medical Center made headlines in April. The hospital suspected that funeral parlors were not picking up the cadavers because they were worried about who would shoulder the fees. (READ: Number of unclaimed bodies in East Avenue Medical Center down to 8 – spokesperson)
As of Thursday, a total of 790 deaths were recorded from the 11,876 confirmed cases in the Philippines. – Rappler.com