Managing of human remains amidst COVID-19April 17, 2020
The L!stong Ugnayan, COVID-19 ay Labanan Online Talakayan Series recently concluded its 7th session with an in-depth discussion of the DILG Memorandum Circular 2020-063 on Managing Human Remains with resource speaker Engr. Edgar Allan Tabell, Chief of DILG Central Office Disaster Information Coordinating Center (CODIX). Over 700 participants composed of Local Chief Executives, Local Health Officers, Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Officers, LGRRC Managers, LGCDD Chiefs, Regional and Provincial DILG Disaster Risk Reduction Team joined the session on April 17, 2020.
In the beginning of his presentation, Director Tabel emphasized that “The inherent dignity of the dead shall be observed at all times,”.
He then identified the basis of the guidelines on managing the remains of COVID-19; (1) Presidential Decree 856 or the Code of Sanitation of the Philippines, Chapter 21, which deals with the disposal of dead persons; (2) DOH Memorandum No. 2020 - 067 or the Guidelines of the Disposal and Shipment of Remains of Confirmed Cases of 2019 NCoV ARD; (3) World Health Organization (WHO) Interim Guidance (4) DILG issued MC No. 2020- 063, the Interim Guidelines of the Management on the Human Remains for PUIs and Confirmed Cases.
Salient features of MC 2020-063 were also discussed, such as the universal, standard and transmission-based precautions and DOH recommended guidelines and procedures in handling remains that must be strictly observed to avoid the spread of the disease.
He added that according to Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and WHO, human remains of confirmed COVID-19 cases can be buried or cremated. The same applies to PUIs. However, cremation is preferred because of the high probability that the infection spread stops once the body is cremated.
Dir. Tabell gave emphasis that burials are to be done within 12 hours after death; this is a provision of the law that governs the disposal of dead bodies. It was also discussed that LGUs shall designate and commission reputable funeral parlors and crematoriums to handle the remains of confirmed COVID-19 cases and PUIs.
He noted that there are few occasions where the LCE prevented the proper burial of a Muslim COVID-19 victim. Thus, the memorandum addresses this kind of concern, including the management of dead Muslim foreign nationals.
Dir. Tabell also provided information on the number of other essential materials and establishments to manage COVID-19 human remains: 1,996 funeral parlors, 1108 crematoriums, 63 Muslim funeral facilities and 14,887 cadaver bags in the country.
Overall, DILG MC 2020-063 provides technical guidance on hygienic measures, waste management and environment control, requirements for and procedures on burial and cremation, shipment of human remains, precautions in handling infectious human remains and others.
Furthermore, the DILG together with its development partner, Ideals Inc., created an interim manual entitled Management of Human Remains for PUI and confirmed COVID-19 cases. The manual includes initial recommendation and prescriptions that can gradually change depending on future occurrences.
“Coordination is the essence of management”, said Dir, Tabell as he ended his presentation.
The transcript and video documentation of the said session will be uploaded for the consumption of the participants and the general public.
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