GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - A concerned local undertaker says the regulations on the handling of Covid-19 human remains are "disturbing" as they allow the families of the deceased to view the body.
Also, although the washing and preparing of the body by family members is not encouraged, it is not prohibited.
The amendments to the Human Remains Regulations under the National Health Act were gazetted on 25 May to give guidance with regard to the handling of Covid-19 bodies.
The undertaker, who wishes to remain anonymous, also questions the fact that the Home Affairs Department still requires a thumb print on an application to register a person's death, just as in other deaths.
"I would rather not subject my staff to the risk of the virus by opening the bag to get a thumb print or let family view the body."
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), dead bodies are generally not infectious, except in cases of haemorrhagic fevers (such as Ebola, Marburg) and cholera.
"Only the lungs of patients with pandemic influenza, if handled improperly during an autopsy, can be infectious. Otherwise, cadavers do not transmit disease."
Avbob George owner Gert Niehaus says the family of a deceased person can't be deprived of saying their goodbyes. "If family members want to view the body, they are welcome, but they must stick to the hygiene protocols. The body has to be prepared too, but we will do this with the necessary protocols. The thumbprint of the deceased must also be taken."
According to the regulations, a body bag should be used for transferring a Covid-19 body from the hospital or home where the person died. Those handling the body should use full PPE. The outer surface of the body bag should be decontaminated immediately before it leaves the home or hospital ward.
Once in the private mortuary, "it would be acceptable to open the body bag for viewing by family members (one at a time) only". The mortuary attendant must wear full PPE and the family must be provided with masks and gloves and should not touch the body with bare hands.
Washing or preparing of the mortal remains is allowed provided those carrying out the task wear PPE such as gloves, masks and a waterproof coverall.
If an infected person dies at home, family members must not handle the body. An emergency medical service must be called immediately to confirm death before removal by an undertaker.
No washing is allowed outside of the mortuary or funeral undertaker's facilities. If the family wishes to dress the body, they may do so at the funeral undertaker's premises prior to the body being placed in the body bag. Those carrying out the task should wear PPE.
The regulations state that people carrying the coffin of a Covid-19 deceased during burial must wear disposable hand gloves which must be disposed of properly.
Metropolitan and local municipalities must ensure that the burial or cremation of Covid-19 mortal remains takes place in suitably approved cemeteries or crematoriums.
Areas that may be utilised for mass burial must be identified, should the need for this arise. George Herald is awaiting a response from the Garden Route Municipality regarding the identification of such premises in our district. It had said earlier that it was looking for suitable grounds.
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