Uganda revisits COVID-19 burial protocols, families to bury their dead

Uganda Red Cross Society Covid-19 burial
Uganda Red Cross Society teams carrying out Safe and Dignified Burials

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Families in Uganda have now been allowed to bury their loved ones that succumb to COVID-19. The government had initially taken up the burial arrangements, to guarantee safe and dignified burials, commonly used when dealing with highly infectious diseases.

Guidelines earlier  issued by the health ministry  stated that the burial of persons who succumb to the disease was supposed to be carried out by trained health workers and the number of people who access the graveyard had to be limited.

In addition to this, the body also had to be prepared by health workers who would then hand it over to burial teams who would transport the body for burial. 

Previously, the Uganda Red Cross Society [URCS] has been carrying out the safe and dignified burials of all COVID-19 suspected and confirmed deaths. However, the new guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health indicate that henceforth, teams will just disinfect the body of the deceased and wrap it in a burial bag before handing it to family members for burial.

Irene Nakasiita, the Public Relations Manager of Uganda Red Cross Society [URCS] says that the new protocols are needed because they can no longer meet the costs associated with carrying out safe and dignified burials.

Eric Edwards Ofwono, the Infectious Disease Operations Manager at Red Cross says now the burials will be overseen by district health teams. According to Red Cross, around 50 burials have been conducted by their teams around the country.

George Okentho, the Commissioner in Charge of safe and dignified burials says that the new protocols were issued after it was discovered that the remains of persons who succumb to the disease are not infectious.

“There is nothing like a safe and dignified burial in Uganda. The burials have been stopped after it was discovered that the disease is not contagious. The remains of the dead cannot spread the disease,” he said.

The burials have been an issue of contention with some thinking the burials are not necessary since there is no evidence to indicate that the disease can be spread from remains of the deceased.

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According to the World Health Organisation [WHO], while there is little evidence to show that the disease can be passed on through the remains of an infected person, it is important to take precautions since little is known about the disease. 

However Ugandan public health expert, Prof Freddie Ssengooba, in an earlier interview with this publication cautioned the ministry about safe and dignified burials saying they were not needed for COVID-19. He said the burials raise suspicion of government officials using the pandemic for monetary gains.