The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has built the capacity of some funeral homes to enable them to handle the burial of persons who die of COVID-19.
The new arrangement, the service explained, did not override the original national COVID-19 burial policy, but that it had been structured to ensure that national and international burial safety protocols were strictly adhered to.
Meanwhile, it explained, the state would continue to assist families who could not afford the services of the funeral homes through the assemblies to bury their dead relatives in a dignified manner.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra last Wednesday, the Director-General of the GHS, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, said the bodies of people who died of COVID-19 were infected surfaces that could become conduits for the spread of the virus if not handled properly.
He insisted that the policy guiding the burial of COVID-19 bodies, including the adorning of the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), was still in force.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye mentioned other safety protocols as the lying in state of such bodies in air-tight glass coverings to avoid any human contact.
Furthermore, he said, the GHS would continue to conduct strict monitoring and supervision to ensure that the highest hygienic requirements were adhered to in the funeral homes.
Hitherto, although families were involved in the burial of persons whose deaths were COVID-19 related, the bodies were strictly handled and buried by the state through the Health and Environmental Safety units of the metropolitan assemblies, under the strict supervision of the GHS.
That defied the traditional system where the death is often bathed, shaved, among other things, to prepare it for lying in state, which has been deemed critical for the living to pay their last respects to the dead.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye said the GHS decided to involve the funeral homes just to help families that wanted to abide by their traditions do so without facilitating further spread of the virus.
Increasingly, families were becoming anxious over their inability to bury their relatives who died of COVID-19 in the traditional way, where the body was laid in state for family and friends to file past to pay their last respects, among other beliefs.
“This is why we have trained some funeral homes to help families prepare and lay their bodies in state for public viewing and burial in a way that is safe and in line with national COVID-19 burial guidelines,” he said.
“We will follow both national and international guidelines in handling and burying the dead, in line with safety protocols,” Dr Kuma-Aboagye said.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye said adhering to safety protocols in the handling of the bodies of people who had died of COVID-19 was critical due to the mode of spread of the virus.
He said the disease was caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which spread through the droplets of infected persons.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye reiterated the call to the target group for the ongoing vaccination exercise and future ones to make themselves available because the vaccines were safe and efficacious.
He said vaccines were the best of all immune boosters because they trained the body’s immune system to naturally fight a disease.