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Jakarta Post

Authorities assure safety as locals protest burial of people with coronavirus

  • Suherdjoko and Andi Hajramurni

    The Jakarta Post

Semarang/Makassar   /   Thu, April 2, 2020   /   12:38 pm
Authorities assure safety as locals protest burial of people with coronavirus Workers carry the coffin of a deceased COVID-19 patient during a funeral in Jakarta on March 31. (AFP/Bay Ismoyo)

Authorities across some regions are trying hard to assure the public that the burial of people with COVID-19 is not something to be wary of, as reports emerged that some locals have rejected the idea of having the bodies of deceased persons infected by the novel coronavirus buried in cemeteries near their homes.

Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo said he was "deeply saddened by the reports", emphasizing that all burials of those with or suspected to have contracted COVID-19 in the country had followed the safety standards of the World Health Organization (WHO).

"I don't want such a thing to happen again. Let's respect the feelings of the family members of the deceased," he said on Wednesday, "They are already in so much grief as they were not able to see the faces of the deceased one last time."

"So, please don't hurt them [the family members] more. Let's support them together."

Read also: Alone on their deathbed, how COVID-19 keeps families away from loved ones

On Tuesday, the dead body of a COVID-19 patient that had been buried in Tumiyeng village in the province's Banyumas regency was dug up to be removed to another cemetery following protests.

Four villages previously rejected the idea having the dead body buried in a local cemetery, as they were reportedly concerned about possible coronavirus transmission.

Banyumas Regent Achmad Husein even went as far as to help in the digging to show residents that as long as the corpse had been handled properly, the dead body of a COVID-19 patient was not dangerous.

"In the near future, we'll educate residents so they understand that the virus dies underground and it won't spread everywhere and infect people," Husein said as quoted by tribunnews.com on Wednesday.

Similar tensions have been reported in Depok and Tasikmlaya in West Java, Bandar Lampung in Lampung and Gowa regency in South Sulawesi.

Ganjar said he himself had asked experts about the protocol for handling the dead bodies of people with COVID-19.

The safety protocols include that hospital authorities treating the patient spray disinfectant on the corpse, wash the body, cover it in plastic and put it inside a coffin for the burial.

"If the bodies are handled according to the guidelines [...] they will not spread the disease. It's safe, the virus will be dead, too," Ganjar said, "The most important thing is that residents should not attend the funeral."

Following the protests, the Banyumas administration prepared three plots of land as a graveyard specifically designated for COVID-19 patients and suspects.

Read also: Viral video shows Southeast Sulawesi family unwrapping body of suspected COVID-19 fatality

South Sulawesi also took a similar action after locals rejected the idea of burying three COVID-19 suspects in the provincial capital of Makassar on Sunday and Tuesday.

"The South Sulawesi administration has prepared a special graveyard for COVID-19 patients and suspects so such incidents won't occur again in the future. The graveyard can be used starting on Wednesday," medical department head of Hasanuddin Military Command Col. Ckm. Dr. Soni Endro Cahyo Wicaksono said on Tuesday.

Husni Thamrin, public health department head of the South Sulawesi Health Agency, said his side would continue to educate people so the latter understood that all COVID-19 patients and suspects were buried in accordance with WHO guidelines.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Indonesia has recorded 1,677 confirmed coronavirus cases with 157 fatalities, making the country's mortality rate of 9.3 percent among the highest in the world. (nal)