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  • Last Update : 03:29 pm

Coronavirus burials: Tale of an undertaker

  • Published at 11:23 am April 10th, 2020
File photo of undertaker Md Joban Ali Dhaka Tribune

Joban Ali, with his team, is stepping up to do his job, despite the risks

Md Joban Ali, 45, has been digging graves for the last three and a half years at the Taltola graveyard in Dhaka’s Khilgaon area.

Despite being discouraged by his spouse several times, Joban, a responsible local, leads a team of four gravediggers.

Initially, even he refused to participate in the burial process of the very first Covid-19 casualty. 

Only the driver of the ambulance who ferried the body was present while all had fled the place in fear. Later, 10 to 15 local boys cooperated with the driver and finally carried out the burial.

Later Joban Ali, also an employee at the graveyard, returned and took charge for 15 other burials of Covid-19 patients and suspects at Taltola graveyard of Khilgaon.

Talking to Dhaka Tribune, he said his parents encouraged him to take part in the process.

Father of four, Joban hails from Mymensingh Sadar. 

He said, most of the time, relatives of the deceased were not present for their funerals.

Burial guideline by WHO

Interim guidance on March 24, titled Infection Prevention and Control for the safe management of a dead body in the context of Covid-19 was issued by the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO suggests to bury or cremate people who have died from Covid-19.

Family and friends may view the body after it has been prepared for burial, in accordance with customs.

They should not touch or kiss the body and should wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after the viewing. Physical distancing measures should be strictly applied.

Health care workers or mortuary staff preparing the body (e.g. washing the body, tidying hair, trimming nails, or shaving) should wear appropriate PPE according to standard precautions (gloves, impermeable disposable gown [or disposable gown with impermeable apron], medical mask, eye protection), WHO suggests. 

The report stated that those tasked with placing the body in the grave should wear gloves and wash hands with soap and water after removal of the gloves once the burial is complete.

Cleaning of reusable PPE should be conducted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection of products, the report also added.

The belongings of the deceased person do not need to be burned or otherwise disposed of. However, they should be handled with gloves and cleaned with a detergent followed by disinfection with a solution of at least 70% ethanol or 0.1% (1000 ppm) bleach.

Clothing and other fabric belonging to the deceased should be machine washed with warm water at 60−90°C (140−194°F) and laundry detergent. If machine washing is not possible, linens can be soaked in hot water and soap in a large drum using a stick to stir and being careful to avoid splashing.

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