SINCE Covid-19 reached the shores of Trinidad and Tobago, 55 people have lost their lives to the virus.
But what happens to the body of a person who contracts that virus and eventually loses the battle? Is the body handed over to their relatives to carry out final rites?
The answer to that question is no. In fact, the last time immediate family members would be allowed to view the body of someone who has passed away from the virus will be at the hospital mortuary or funeral home before it is disposed of by fire.
The Express obtained this information in a legal letter issued to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi on Sunday by attorney Gerald Ramdeen on behalf a woman and her three children who claim they were not even being allowed to view the body of her husband after he contracted and died from the virus on September 8.
Ramdeen said his client and her children were being denied the opportunity to view the body at the Couva Hospital. Instead, they were informed by staff that the body will be cremated and the ashes handed over to them. The attorney stated that if his clients were not allowed to view the body before disposal, High Court action would be initiated against the Office of the Attorney General.
The Express understands that Ramdeen received a response yesterday allowing the family the opportunity to view the body of their loved one before it is cremated.
In March of this year, the Ministry of Health published guidelines titled: “Recommendations and Guidelines for Hospital Staff and Funeral Agencies in the context of Covid-19” outlining the proper procedure for the viewing of the body of a Covid-19 victim.
Relatives can be allowed to view the body of a suspected or confirmed case under the following conditions:
• The deceased body should be moved to the viewing area using the recommended transfer and handling protocols. No more than two staff members with PPE should be used for this purpose to limit exposure.
• If family members need to be escorted to the viewing area, this should be done by a member of staff who has not and will not come into contact with the body. Members of staff who have transferred and positioned the body should avoid all contact with the public while still wearing contaminated PPE.
• A sanitisation station must be made available at points of entry/exit to the mortuary/viewing area. Use of these stations is mandatory.
• Only a designated family member or caregiver, one at a time and a police officer (if necessary), is allowed into the mortuary/viewing area and they must be provided with a surgical mask and must maintain a distance of at least three feet from the deceased. This is with the consideration that this is the last time that the family will be allowed to view their loved one. Permission will be given to use electronic media to stream images to the bereaved for not more than one minute.
• The items of value belonging to the deceased shall be returned to the family after disinfection by staff. They should be handled with gloves and cleaned with a detergent followed by disinfection with the recommended disinfectants as prescribed earlier.
• THE BODY CANNOT BE TOUCHED.
• The body bag should only be opened by an attendant while still wearing PPE. It should be opened so that only the face is exposed.