Pakistan

New SOPs for burials during coronavirus crisis issued by Sindh

‘Once the ghusal is done with all protection & shrouding is done, body can be handed over to the legal heirs for a normal burial since after shrouding there is virtually no risk of coronavirus transmission,’ Sindh government spokesperson Senator Murtaza Wahab said. The News/via Geo.tv/Files

KARACHI: New standard operating procedures for burials of those who have died of the novel coronavirus have been issued by the government of Sindh, its spokesperson, Senator Murtaza Wahab, said Monday.

In a post on Twitter, Wahab explained that bodies of the deceased could be handed over to their families “for a normal burial” after shrouding, which removes the risk of coronavirus spread.

“Once the ghusal is done with all protection & shrouding is done, body can be handed over to the legal heirs for a normal burial since after shrouding there is virtually no risk of #COVID19 transmission,” Wahab said.

Last week, the government of Sindh had accused its federal counterpart over the SOPs governing the burial of COVID-19 fatalities, saying the Centre could not unilaterally take a decision to allow bodies to be returned to relatives unless it revised the procedure.

Wahab, the spokesperson, had told The News that the provincial government did not have any objections in handing over the bodies of COVID-19 patients to their families for “proper funeral prayers and dignified burials”.

“On the recommendations from experts of the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) and Dr Abdul Bari Khan of the Indus Hospital Karachi, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had directed the health department to revise the SOP for handing over the bodies of those who died due to the coronavirus infection.

“But the [Sindh] health department says that unless the federal government revises its SOPs in this regard, Sindh cannot take this decision unilaterally,” Wahab had said.

As the government had announced a strict procedure for the funeral and burial of COVID-19 patients, families of the deceased often show anger over not being allowed to perform the last rites of their loved ones.

On Thursday, the attendants of a patient who had reportedly died at the COVID-19 treatment ward at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) in Karachi ransacked the treatment facility and terrorised healthcare providers after they were denied custody of the body.

However, due to timely intervention by police and Rangers, the family members of the deceased could not take the body away with them.

Following the incident, JPMC Executive Director Dr Seemin Jamali had written a letter written to the Sindh health department, saying the SOPs needed to be “revised urgently”.

“It is requested that the SOPs regarding the bodies of COVID-19 patients may be reviewed and revised urgently in the best interest of the medical institutions as it poses a great threat to the medical staff who detain/hold the bodies till the arrival of the district administration and the welfare organisation’s people,” the letter had said.

Wahab said the authorities are aware of the grief and agony of the families whose loved ones are dying due to the coronavirus, and their sorrow and pain increases manifold when the bodies of their loved ones are not handed over to them for a proper burial.

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