Families will now be allowed to transport the remains of loved ones who have succumbed to Covid-19 for burial at a site of their choice, health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula announced yesterday.
Announcing the revisited protocol at State House, Shangula said the ministry has been reviewing new evidence related to burials of persons who died of Covid-19 complications. “A person who died from Covid-19 may be buried at the site which the family chooses and not necessarily at the locality where the person has died as has been the case,” said Shangula. “Families who choose to bury their loved one outside a locality where the death occurred may do so at their own cost: provided that the human remains are handled by a professional and registered undertaker who has been trained and certified by the State to handle human remains of persons who succumb to notifiable infectious diseases, including Covid-19.” Many families have in the past complained about the protocol, with some claiming it was not part of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) standard operating procedure.
According to Shangula, the officials from the health ministry will continue to supervise all burials related to Covid-19, with the view to ensure health protocols are observed.
“The burial is handled either by the State as a safe burial or by an approved private undertaker, taking into consideration the family’s cultural and religious beliefs. Cultural or religious rites that the family may wish to perform are permitted but must be conducted in adherence to infection prevention and control safety measures. A register of persons attending the burial should be kept. The ceremony at the burial site should not exceed two hours. Attendance at a burial must not exceed the maximum number of persons allowed in the regulations,” Shangula added.
The minister also said only close family members will be allowed at a distance of three metres from the grave, while other mourners should be stationed at a distance of not less ten metres from the grave.
“A person who died of Covid-19 complications should be buried in the normal cemetery. The grave should not be less than two metres deep. The grave is covered with soft sand by staff of the ministry of health or the undertaker until the coffin is covered. After that the tools will be disinfected and the family members can fully cover the grave as long as they are wearing the full PPE. Government will not supply such PPE,” he added.
On Namibians succumbing to the virus abroad, Shangula said their remains will not be repatriated unless cremated. “The remains of a person who died outside Namibia due to Covid-19 complications shall be allowed in Namibia if the body has been cremated. Embalming of the body does not qualify the body to be allowed in the country,” he said.