No fear of contagion in cremation and rituals of corona-infected body, say forensic experts

Last week residents of Amritsar village had refused cremation of Padma Shri recipient Nirmal Singh

No fear of contagion in cremation and rituals of corona-infected body, say forensic experts

Villagers oppose cremation of Bhai Nirmal Singh Khalsa at the cremation ground at Verka in Amritsar on Thursday. Tribune file photo

Karam Prakash
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 6

Amid the growing fear of infection from the cremation of COVID-19 infected people, forensic experts said there was no chance of contagion from the cremation — if the protocol was followed.

Experts said there was a misconception that coronavirus continued to remain on the ground or in the air following the cremation of the COVID-19 patient.

Notably, last week, residents of Verka village in Amritsar district had refused the cremation of Padma Shri recipient and Sikh spiritual singer Nirmal Singh, who died of COVID-19.

Experts informed that the main driver of transmission of COVID-19 was only droplets.

There is unlikely to be an increased risk of COVID infection — from a dead body — to health workers or family members.

The forensic experts say that before the body is taken to the cremation ground, it has already been sanitised by health staff and is taken to the cremation ground — in a double-layered body bag.

After the death of the COVID-19 patient, the mouth, nose and wounds — if any — are washed with 1 per cent sodium hypochlorite solution.

Thereafter, the body openings and wounds are dressed with impermeable material to prevent leakage of body fluids.

The body then is placed in a leak-proof double-layered body bag. The exterior of the body bag is decontaminated with 1 per cent hypochlorite.

Dr DS Bhullar, senior forensic medicine and toxicology expert of Government Rajindra Hospital, Patiala, said that all the required protocol was being followed, therefore, there was no chance of spread of the virus from the dead body.

He said, “The cremation rituals are done after following all the precautions by the health experts, therefore, there is no chance of spread of the virus while cremating a COVID-19 patient.”

Commenting on the post-cremation rituals, Bhullar said that people — who attend the cremation and rituals thereafter — have no chance of contagion as coronavirus in the body gets killed after cremation.

He said the ashes didn’t pose any risk and can be collected to perform the last rites.

Experts informed that viewing of the body by unzipping the face end of the body bag (by the staff using standard precautions) is allowed, for the relatives to see the body for one last time.

However, bathing, kissing, hugging of the body should not be allowed.

For precaution sake, after the cremation, funeral staff and family members should wash their hands, said forensic experts.

Dr Ashok Chanana, Professor, Government Medical College, Amritsar, said that the government had already laid the protocol which was duly followed by the health staff.

He said, “People should trust doctors and experts and do not believe in rumours. If there is awareness, people won’t fear about the cremation of the patient.”

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