The body of a dead resident of the Ternopil region in western Ukraine was given to his relatives in a bag and transported by their own personal vehicle. The mayor and his deputy, the chairman of the village council and a relative of the deceased lowered the coffin into the grave. This 68-year-old resident of Kovalivka village was Ukraine’s 5th confirmed victim of the COVID-19 disease at the time. As of March 31, 15 people in Ukraine have died of COVID-19.
Despite the lack of specific World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, protective equipment is used in some countries for burying COVID-19 victims, and in some countries, even relatives have been barred from the burial. Ukraine has developed its own rules for burying the bodies of COVID-19 victims.
Why Special Burial Measures Have Been Introduced
The Ministry of Health had been developing rules for the burial of COVID-19 victims, Deputy Minister of Health and Chief State Sanitary Doctor Viktor Lyashko said on March 23. He emphasized that the greatest risk of infection is during funeral rites due to the crowds and goodbye kisses.
These recommendations were developed at Ukraine’s Public Health Center, and the order was signed by Deputy Minister Viktor Lyashko on March 27.
What Happens to the Body
The body must be put in a sealed bag and buried in a sealed coffin.
"Upon completion of the dissection, the body is treated with a disinfectant, chlorine-containing solution, placed in an airtight, sealed bag, and placed in a tightly closed coffin", Pavlo Palamarchuk, an expert from the Health Ministry’s Public Health Directorate told Hromadske. This has to be done by the pathoanatomical center staff.
If a person dies at home, there are no mandatory measures and the burial is handled by the funeral bureaus. Disinfection may be ordered by the relatives of the deceased.
During a briefing, Lyashko said that contact with the patient's body outside of the healthcare facility should be avoided – especially after a COVID-19 diagnosis and during burial preparations.
Will Relatives Be Able to Attend the Funeral?
Yes. Only the number of people, the distance between them and the attendance record are regulated.
"The burial or cremation of those who have died of viral pneumonia and severe acute respiratory infections, suspected of having coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is carried out in a tightly closed coffin. It is advisable to limit the number of people present during the burial and to keep a distance of not less than 1.5 meters. During the burial, the persons who were present shall be registered in an arbitrary form, indicating the date and time of their stay; surnames, names, patronymic; address of residence; contact phone number," the decree reads.
How the Victims Were Buried Before
Earlier, the funeral regulations with regard to COVID-19 pandemic victims depended on local authorities.
The first victim in Ukraine, a 71-year-old resident of Radomyshl in Zhytomyr region, was buried on March 14 in the central cemetery but without relatives and friends. Her family self-isolated at the time.
The funeral of the 33-year-old resident of Chernivtsi was handled by her father, and in Ivano-Frankivsk, the local authority allocated a separate place in the cemetery for the coronavirus victims.
/ by Anastasia Blavatnik, translated and updated by Vladyslav Kudryk
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