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MOH issues guidelines on proper disposal of deceased Covid-19 patients

The Ministry of Health has issued a series of guidelines to be followed for the safe disposal of patients who have succumbed to the novel Covid-19.

The guidelines were developed in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) protocols and the Public Health Act Cap 242 of the Laws of Kenya.

They involve three main processes in the disposal of the remains of Covid-19 patients. The three include; identification of the deceased, certification of death, and disposal of the human remains.

The guidelines also stipulate that health care workers and anyone involved in the disposal of the remains must adhere to the set guidelines.

The disposal of the remains will be conducted in a manner that prevents infection, control the spread of disease and is culturally appropriate for the bereaved.

Deaths occurring outside a health facility will be reported through the established guidelines for notification of deaths from infectious disease causes.

If preliminary investigation suggests a natural death without concern for coronavirus, and if the deceased is properly identified, the body may be transported to a funeral home or crematorium with subsequent certification by a competent health professional.

If a preliminary investigation meets the definition for coronavirus at the time of death, the Ministry of Health shall be notified and assume jurisdiction to determine the need for laboratory confirmation and autopsy.

Before the commencement of the handling of the remains, the family will be fully informed about the dignified burial process and their religious and personal rights to show respect for the deceased.

The team which will handle the funeral will include; a family representative, a Public Health Officer, a local administrator (Chief/Assistant Chief), security and any other co ‘opted health professional.

The steps to be followed during the internment will be as follows:

1. Arrival of the body disposal team

2. The staff should not be wearing PPE upon arrival.

3. Greet the family and offer condolences before unloading the necessary material from the vehicles. Request respectfully for a family representative.

4. The communicator should liaise with the family representative for the final rites.

Before handling the remains, health officials will be required to be in protective gear and will spray the body before placing it in the appropriate body bag.

If a coffin is necessary, it will be placed outside the house, and then the body will be placed by health officials in full protective equipment.

A family representative in gloves will then be allowed to close the coffin after which it will be disinfected. The body will then be interred.

After the burial, health officials will disinfect rooms, clothes or other items that the deceased may have used or interacted with before they leave the home.

The guidelines were issued hours after a viral video showing health officials disposing a body of a Covid-19 patient in Siaya that caused an uproar.

James Oyugi Onyango, 59, who succumbed to Covid-19 in Kamalunga village in Siaya County, was hurriedly buried by hazmat suit-clad health officials in the wee hours of the morning on Easter Sunday.

Last week the government had said it will dispose of bodies of coronavirus victims if their families fail to pick the remains within 24 hours.

Chief Government Pathologist Johansen Oduor said families of the victims will be given 24 hours to pick and bury their loved ones, failure to which the government will inter them at the nearest cemetery.

To protect morticians from contracting the virus, Oduor said bodies of Covid-19 victims are not being embalmed. Instead, the remains are stacked in two body bags that are thoroughly disinfected to prevent any infections.