End of ‘men in white’ at COVID-19 burials as WHO issues new guidelines
The sight of heavily PPE clad Ministry of Health officials at funeral ceremonies for victims of COVID-19 may be a thing of the past after the World Health Organisation released new guidelines.
All persons who have been confirmed or suspected to have died of COVID-19 have been interred, not by family members as is tradition, but by officials from the government who are always dressed in white Personal Protective Equipment.
This, many have said, has left many traumatised with family members reduced to spectators and not allowed anywhere near the grave when their loved ones are being buried.
WHO, in their new guidelines released on Monday said that those who prepare the body or come into contact with it, are advised to wear gloves and wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water when finished.
This means that families can now be involved in the burial process and there is no need of PPEs as is the process right now.
“Those tasked with placing the body in the grave, on the funeral pyre, etc. should wear gloves and perform hand hygiene once the burial is complete,” reads the WHO statement.
The government on Monday hinted at revised protocols when it comes to how COVID-19 fatalities are buried after new research showed that dead bodies do not spread the novel coronavirus that has so far killed 599 people in Kenya.
“We know people have had concerns over the ‘men in white’, we hope the protocols as we roll them out will make sure you do not see so many men in white again,” Head of Public Health, Dr. Francis Kuria said.
Speaking on Monday at Afya House during the daily coronavirus briefing, Dr. Kuria said that bodies would now be released their next-of-kin for the final send-off.
“We have finalised the revised protocols that are going to guide us while conducting burials moving forward…hopefully the protocols are going to address the concerns of stigma…” he added.
The WHO statement noted that; “Family members, traditional and religious leaders and others may typically be involved in burials at the community level.”
Those who prepare the body or come into contact with it, are advised to wear gloves and wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water when finished.
“For any activity that may involve the splashing of bodily fluids or the production of aerosols, eye and mouth protection i.e. face shield/goggles and medical mask are recommended. Furthermore, if aerosols are generated, particulate respirators (N95 or FFP2 or its equivalent) should be worn,” said WHO.
Viewing of the body is also permitted in the new guidelines but warned against touching the body and maintain social distancing.