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No restrictions on burial or cremation of COVID-19 deaths

Some funeral homes encouraging COVID-19 cremations

EyeWitness News CoronavirusApril 9, 2020April 9, 2020 at 3:47 am Sloan Smith

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands said yesterday that there are no specific requirements for the burial or cremation of coronavirus (COVID-19) victims.

To date, there have been seven COVID-19 related deaths in The Bahamas.

Officials confirmed today that a 51-year-old woman in Grand Bahama died on April 6, and tested positive for the virus after her death.

Sands pointed to a position paper by the World Health Organization advising that there is no reason why a patient who has succumbed from COVID-19 could not have an ordinary burial or cremation.

“There are clearly issues people would like to hope that they can have a dignified burial with a culturally significant number of mourners, family members, and so some people may choose to keep their remains in storage,” he noted.

“As long as we have the capacity to do that, I don’t think that there is going to be a problem, but there is no specific requirement for cremation for COVID-19 [cases].”

While WHO has not suggested against burials, it has issued guidelines for “Infection Prevention and Control for the safe management of a dead body in the context of COVID-19”.

The organization advises health care workers or mortuary staff preparing the body to wear appropriate PPE and notes that embalming is not recommended in order to avoid excessive manipulation of the body.

Family members are advised not to touch or kiss the body after it has been prepared for burial and should view the body using standard precautions at all times including hand hygiene.

Additionally, adults over 60 and those immunosuppressed individuals should not directly interact with the body, the organization states.

Those tasked with placing the body in the grave should wear gloves and wash hands after the removal of the gloves.

Some funeral homes in the country are proposing cremation as the best option for COVID-19 cases.

Principal of Evergreen Mortuary Denalee Penn-Mackey told Eyewitness News that she agrees with that position because the world is still learning the dynamics of this virus.

She noted that some funeral homes may not always carry out the best practices, and urged the public to select reputable funeral homes during the critical time.

President of The Bahamas United Funeral Homes and Morticians Association said while he is encouraging his members to be careful and clean in their practices, they are still waiting for advice and instruction from the government on the desired protocol.

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