Burial of COVID-19 victims possible in 12 hours

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol, Nov. 14 (PIA) – Government regulations ruled that patients who died of COVID-19 should be buried within 12 hours after their deaths.

This is true for those who are confirmed to have the disease or even those who are persons under investigation (PUI) upon their detah. 

According to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) through Memorandum Circular No. 63 series of 2020, should the patient die in a health facility, universal, standard and transmission-based precautions and Deparmtent of Health (DOH)-recommended guidelines and procedures must be strictly observed to avoid further spread of the disease.

DILG MC 63 or the Interim Guidelines on the Management of Human Remains of Patients Under investigation (PUI) and confirmed Coronavirus Cases said this as a general guideline in handling the remains of PUIs, including suspect cases or those with severe acute respiratory infection (SARI), influenza-like-illness (ILI), with travel history to a place with COVID transmission, and those who had contact with COVID positive case. 

For suspected cases which also involve individuals with fever, cough or shortness of breath or other respiratory signs especially when they are 60 years old and above, with comorbidity, and assessed as having high risk pregnancy and is a health worker, they are treated similarly like COVID-confirmed cases. 

The same precaution also applies to cadavers of probable cases, or suspect cases with inconclusive COVID-19 test and those who tested positive but the results came from non DOH-accredited laboratories.

On the other hand, DOH on the guideline of the disposal of the remains of confirmed COVID-19 cases, through Department Memorandum No 047 and Department Memorandum No. 0158, or the proper handling of suspect, probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases, said suspect and probable COVID-19 patients who died with pending test results shall be handled similar to a confirmed COVID-19 case.

This is because transmission of infectious diseases associated with management of dead bodies can occur and can be aggravated by non-compliance to universal, standard and transmission-based precautions, especially in healthcare settings.

According to DOH DM 158, the only time that the family can see their dead relative would be when the body is removed from the isolation area, but with standard procedures strictly followed.

If the patient dies outside a health facility, the responders who would handle the cadaver would be in full personal protective equipment, rubber gloves and masks and these should be immediately disposed of after disinfection, while the cadaver is wrapped in cloth and rigid double body bags, its openings sealed to stop any leakage of body fluids, before placing the body in a sealed casket or coffin.    

According to DILG MC No 63, and DOH Department Memorandum 047, burial preferably by cremation shall be done within 12 hours after death.

DOH DM 67 also states that hygienic preparation like cleaning the body, tidying of hair, trimming of nails and shaving, as well as embalming shall not be permitted.

As to the specific guidelines, both agencies said the cadaver must be wrapped in cloth, placed inside an airtight cadaver bag that is leak-proof and closed tightly with tapes to avoid leakage of fluids, before placing in a coffin for burial.

If the patient died in a health facility, the attending physician or hospital facility health care workers are to attach the biohazard tag to the cadaver bag with “suspected” or “positive COVID-19” and “Handle with Care” markings.

According to the DOH MC, at no instance shall unzipping of the cadaver bag and removal of the body be permitted.

Both agencies in separate memoranda insist that viewing in funeral parlors and hygienic preparations are not allowed.

As to the DOH DM 067, for the burial, only adult family members of the deceased may be permitted to attend the funeral. (rahc/PIA-7/Bohol)

Source: Philippines Information Agency (pia.gov.ph)

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