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Church, ministry differ on Covid burials

2020-09-11  Paheja Siririka

Church, ministry differ on Covid burials
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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN) has demanded government bury persons who succumbed to the novel coronavirus in a dignified manner, including providing coffins, especially to the less fortunate whose families may not be in a position to afford them. 
“The deceased departure from the living has to be made a smooth transition to the next life as possible. Such a journey must be done properly as well as in proper carrier of the body like a coffin instead of the three leak-proof body bags,” acting church chairperson Jack Manale told journalists yesterday. 
Manale further said since the state is expected to respect the cultural and religious norms of the families, it is unacceptable for the deceased to be buried in leak-proof body bags with inscription Covid-19 - handle with care. 

“The name of the beloved is not even recognised and thereby the person becomes nameless. Whatever the state provides should be done in a respectful, compassionate, professional and caring manner.”  He also said income inequality plays a role and that access to resources results in some deceased families not providing coffins for their loved ones within that specific required time of 24 to 48 hours.  “Clearly, such directives are written for the wealthy and powerful social class or elite while not taking into consideration the living situations of the marginalised and poorest of the poor,” Manale pointed out.  “If so, poor Namibians will never be able to buy a coffin within 24-48 hours, therefore, the state has to provide coffins if the family is unable to comply with such a directive. We have learned in Namibia that when it is a state funeral, the government pays for all the costs.”  Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula told New Era yesterday people should differentiate state funerals from Covid-related burials. “There are protocols being followed and in place when it comes to Covid-19 burials and then there is a difference to what a state funeral is. Those are two different things,” he stressed.  Another issue raised by ELCRN was funeral rites. “This ritual is known as the rite of committal. It is done to commit them to the final resting place.” As for the religious rites, Shangula highlighted they are allowed as long as regulations are adhered to and that also depends on the family as some allow and others do not. 

Shangula said the conduct of safe burials considers the cultural and religious norms of the families and allows the family to practice the required rituals. He explained the tenets behind the concept of a safe burial are that the handling of the body must be kept to the minimum. The minister recently also said the authorities were relying on relevant legal frameworks such as the provisions of the Public and Environmental Health Act of 2015, state of emergency regulations and applicable standard operating procedures to conduct burials related to Covid-19.  He said Covid-19-related deaths must be seen in the same context as deaths relating to other notifiable infectious diseases. 

2020-09-11  Paheja Siririka

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