World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued interim guidance on infection prevention and control for the safe management of dead bodies in the context of COVID-19 on Friday, April 10. The interim guidance has been issued for everyone, including managers of health care facilities and mortuaries, religious and public health authorities, and families who tend to the bodies of persons who have died of suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
The UN health agency has clarified that the dead bodies are generally not infectious, except in cases of hemorrhagic fevers (like Ebola, Marburg) and cholera. WHO also tried to debunk the common myth that persons who have died of a communicable disease should be cremated. In the interim guidance shared on WHO's official Twitter handle, it said that cremation is a matter of cultural choice and available resources.
Under the key considerations of the guidance, WHO said that there is no evidence, till date, of persons getting infected from the dead bodies of people who died from COVID-19. However, the health agency advised everyone to ensure the necessary hand hygiene and availability of personal protective equipment.
“The dignity of the dead, their cultural and religious traditions, and their families should be respected and protected throughout,” suggested the WHO while advising against hasty disposal of the dead body.
The UN agency also asked relevant authorities to confirm national and local requirements that may dictate the handling and disposition of the remains. It added that family and friends may view the body after it has been prepared for burial in accordance with customs. As per the guidelines for burial, people tasked with placing the body in the grave or the funeral pyre should wear gloves and wash hands with soap and water after removal of the gloves.
Burial has become a major concern for countries reporting hundreds of deaths in a day due to the novel Coronavirus. According to the latest report, over 1.6 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed worldwide with more than 97,000 deaths, overwhelming burial and cremation grounds across the globe.