Behind the Covid-19 epidemic are sad scenes all over the world showing the bodies of the victims of the disease isolated without any funeral or funeral ceremonies attended by their loved ones and relatives.
These pictures raised fears not only of death but also of the dead themselves who were the victims of the virus, for fear of spreading the virus and the transmission of infection from the bodies of those infected with it after their death.
Could the body of the deceased as a result of the disease be a source of transmission of Covid-19 infection? Would it be safe for them to perform funeral rites? Will these dead people be buried or their bodies cremated?
Do dead bodies transmit Covid-19 infection?
According to the World Health Organization, there is no reason to fear a spread of infection with Covid-19 from the dead bodies, as long as we take the necessary precautions.
The SARS-Cove-2 virus, which causes the disease, is transmitted mostly through droplets of droplets released by humans, for example: when the person is talking, sneezing or coughing.
However, the virus that causes the disease can survive on certain solid surfaces for several days.
“So far, there is no evidence that the dead bodies are transmitting the disease to the living,” William Adow-Crowe, a spokesman for the WHO Regional Office for the Americas, said at a press conference earlier this month.
Is the virus still alive in the dead bodies?
The health expert added, “Saying this does not mean that we say that the dead bodies will not be contagious. You love your dead so much that you want to kiss them or do other things like that” that can transmit the infection.
He stressed the need to prevent such behaviors, to practice preventive measures, and to control disease outbreaks.
Recommendations published by the World Health Organization last March stipulate that “dead bodies, on the whole, will not be infectious, except for cases of haemorrhagic fever (such as Ebola and Marburg virus) and cholera.”
She added, “The lungs of the dead people infected with an influenza pandemic can only be infectious if not handled properly during the autopsy, and otherwise, the bodies do not transmit the disease.”
The bodies of the dead, who died from acute respiratory diseases, remain a home for live viruses concentrated in their lungs and other parts of their bodies.
These viruses can be released during the autopsy process, suspended in the medical equipment used, or during the process of washing the internal organs in the body.
Relatives and friends of the 19 Covid victims must ensure that the body of the deceased is prepared for burial or cremation by professional persons who have taken full precautionary protection and prevention measures, such as those providing funeral services.
Are funerals and burials held for the deceased as a result of illness?
In some places, the number of deaths caused by Covid-19 has led to a crisis in the services of the tambourine agencies.
The funeral and burial ceremonies were banned in some countries in application of the measures of social separation, and some countries are still permitted, but with a very limited number of attendees.
The World Health Organization says that families of the dead and their friends can see a farewell look at their bodies during the funeral service, as long as it takes place under strict restrictions and in accordance with safety and health protection measures.
The organization’s instructions indicate that “they should not touch or accept the body and wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after looking at the dead. Social measures of distance and safety (distance of at least one meter from the closest person) must be applied.”
She adds that people with respiratory symptoms should not attend the funeral, or at least, they should wear a muzzle to prevent the spread of infection.
Children and adults over the age of 60 and those with problems in their immune systems should not be in direct contact with the body of the dead.
Are dead bodies buried, or should they be cremated?
The WHO says both procedures, burial or cremation, are acceptable.
“There is a common myth indicating that the dead bodies of a person transmissible disease must be incinerated, but that is not true. Cremation is a cultural (and religious) option and depends on the resources available for that.”
As for those whose work requires direct dealing with the bodies, such as those who bury them in the grave, they must wear paws and wash their hands thoroughly before wearing the paws and after taking them off.
The Health Organization notes that there is no need to dispose of the bodies of the Covid-19 victims, by burying them or cremating them, urgently.
It is not necessary to burn the belongings of the deceased, rather it must be dealt with by wearing the paws and sterilizing them well using ethanol liquid at a concentration of 70 percent or using a minor cleaning liquid (bleach).
His clothes can be washed in a washing machine with detergents at a temperature of (60 – 90 degrees Celsius), or immersed in soap and water in a large barrel with the use of a stick to move it and avoid the water from spilling out.
Keeping the dignity of the dead
The World Health Organization says that “the dignity of the dead, their religious and cultural traditions and their families must be respected and preserved,” but the panic and fear of an outbreak have proven that there are difficulties in achieving this in some regions of the world.
The situation is “completely out of control” in the province of Guayas, where the deaths of Covid-19 have exceeded 10,000, within a few weeks, “Merwin Terran, head of the Association of Funeral Service Agencies in Ecuador, told the BBC.
Ecuador is the second most affected country in Latin America, after Brazil. Its health system was unable to withstand the pressure caused by the outbreak of the virus, leaving corpses and coffins in the streets for several days after the graves were filled with dead.
Some hospitals have placed the bodies in warehouses that do not have air conditioning or adequate infrastructure to save the dead bodies.
“Even for us, we used to see the reality of death, it was difficult for us to enter (into these warehouses) to identify the owners of the dead bodies,” said Tiran. “Liquids from the bodies dried up after 24 hours.”
Elsewhere, newspaper and media headlines featured pictures of mass graves in New York, the Brazilian city of Manaus and Turkish Istanbul.
The World Health Organization says that this harsh reality of death in the time of the Corona epidemic should not prevent the provision of an appropriate farewell that preserves the dignity of the dead and provides a place for their loved ones to express their grief.
“The authorities should act on a case-by-case basis, to ensure a balance between the rights of the families of the victims and the need to investigate the causes of death and the risk of infection,” she added.