The Centre has released guidelines for management of dead bodies infected with COVID-19. In case a person dies due to the virus, the family of the dead will have to cremate the body, the government said. Large gatherings at crematoriums/ burial grounds should be avoided as a social-distancing measure as it is possible that close family contacts may be symptomatic and/or shedding the virus.
The health ministry said autopsies on COVID-19 dead bodies should be avoided. If autopsy is to be performed for special reasons, the team should be well trained in infection prevention control practices and it should use full complete personal protective equipment comprising coverall, head cover, shoe cover, N95 mask, goggles and face shield. Further, the government said that embalming of dead bodies should not be allowed.
If the outside of the body is visibly contaminated with body fluids, excretions, or secretions, it has to be ensured that the gown is waterproof.
The health ministry said relatives of the dead may be allowed to see the body one last time by unzipping the face end of the body bag with the help of staff and using standard precautions. Bathing, kissing, hugging of the dead body should not be allowed.
To prevent the spread of the virus through dead bodies, religious rituals such as reading of religious scripts, sprinkling of holy water and other last rites that do not require touching of the bodies can also be allowed.
The health ministry's move comes days after the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued guidelines saying that those who are constantly in contact with corpses may witness tuberculosis, blood borne viruses (hepatitis B and C and HIV) and gastrointestinal infections. The WHO has recommended proper use of personal protection equipment to avoid direct contact with fluids while moving a dead body.
WHO has suggested packing and transporting a body with acute respiratory infection to a morgue, crematorium or burial by ensuring it is fully sealed in an impermeable body bag before being removed from the isolation area to avoid leakage of body fluid.