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Panic continues to obstruct burials of coronavirus patients

  • Published at 06:52 pm April 2nd, 2020
coronavirus image-the virus
A computer image created by Nexu Science Communication, together with Trinity College in Dublin, shows a model structurally representative of a betacoronavirus which is the type of virus linked to Covid-19, better known as the coronavirus linked to the Wuhan outbreak, shared with Reuters on February 18, 2020 Reuters

No risk in burial if the standard operating procedure is maintained

Panic-stricken people continue to obstruct the burial, of suspected Covid-19 infected, across Bangladesh while there is nothing to worry about if certain internationally accepted guidelines are maintained during a burial.

Following the deaths different rumours are being spread across social media platforms, fear is gripping people and they are obstructing the burial process, said officials involved in the procedure.

The obstructions are not only spreading more panic among locals but is also creating an awkward situation for the families of the deceased.

A man suffering from cold and fever was buried in Shibganj upazila under Bogra district on Saturday, but the agitating locals protested the decision without even knowing that he was, in fact, not infected by Covid-19.

“It will spread if the deceased are buried in the graveyards,” is what they claimed.

Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital (ShSMCH) Resident Physician Dr Al Amin said the situation is getting worse in rural areas as people are panicking amid the coronavirus crisis due to lack of knowledge.

Dr Mujibur Rahman, head of medicine at Dhaka Medical College (DMC) said such reaction from locals is not expected when the deaths are not confirmed by the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).

What are the fears?

Locals of different areas told Dhaka Tribune that they can get infected with the virus if they participate in the funeral or touch the body.

The bodies ought not to be buried in any locality to prevent spread of the virus, they claimed.

On Monday, the government had to halt the burial of a coronavirus infected patient at Khilgaon graveyard in the face of protest by residents of the Khilgaon area. The body was buried later in another graveyard through police intervention and protection.

Locals of the area claimed they protested against the decision as anyone roaming inside the graveyard can be infected if bodies are buried there.

Nazmun Nahar, an eye witness of the Khilgaon protest said: “I have not allowed my husband to attend the funeral because we do not know how the virus can spread. All we know is that it will spread if one touches the infected.”

However, protesting against anyone’s burial is not acceptable - neither religiously, nor culturally, she said.

So far, 54 people have been infected with Covid-19 in Bangladesh with six deaths as of Wednesday.

Safe burial guideline

Coronavirus is not transmitted from a dead body, said IEDCR officials.

Along with hand hygiene, use of personal protective equipment, safe handling of sharp instruments, disinfection bags for keeping bodies and the disposal of instruments, devices and linen used on Covid-19 patient is mandatory according to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the burial of those who die from Covid-19.

The SOP, jointly formulated by the Directorate General of Health Services, IEDCR and WHO, says all the staff assigned to handle the bodies should be trained with the infection prevention and control practices.

People involved in the process have to ensure hand hygiene, and use PPE, it said.

All tubes, drains and catheters on the dead body should be removed, the SOP said, adding that any puncture holes or wounds resulting from removal of catheter, drains, tubes, or otherwise should be disinfected with 1% hypochlorite and dressed with impermeable material.

Family members willing to see the body shall only be allowed so after placing the body in a leak-proof plastic body bag, it said adding that autopsies shall be avoided if possible in such cases.

The protocol also emphasized on avoiding large gatherings at burial grounds to maintain safety.

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