Coronavirus | ‘No scientific reason to bar loved ones from last rites’

Guidelines said family could see the face of the deceased before the last rites.

Guidelines said family could see the face of the deceased before the last rites.   | Photo Credit: Prashant Nakwe

There was no scientific reason that loved ones could not attend the last rites of those who died of COVID-19, a group of eminent citizens said in an open letter and appeal to Indians on Wednesday.

“In the midst of the pandemic, we are witnessing the immense silent tragedy of loved ones not being able to say goodbye to those they have lost,” it said. The letter said that while it was often impossible for family members to be present during the last moments of patients due to the highly infectious nature of COVID-19, there was no reason they could not bid them a dignified farewell. “It is deeply saddening that the fear and stigma around COVID-19 has caused families to abandon performing the last rites for their family members... It is critical for us to know that it is completely safe for the last rites of a loved one to be performed by family members and for them to have a respectful burial/cremation,” it said.

The March 15 guidelines, issued by the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry, said the family members could see the face of the deceased before the last rites, and all rituals that don’t need contact are permitted.

Also read: Trying times for the bereaved too | Relatives told to stay away from last rites

“There is indeed no scientific reason why people who have lost their loved ones to COVID-19 cannot see the face of their loved one before the last rites... Families can ensure that a smaller number of those closest to the person who died gather; that they wear masks and maintain physical distancing; that they try to avoid very old and very young people joining the last rite gatherings; if there is eating and drinking, this is done with separate (preferably disposable) utensils; and as far as possible, the gatherings are organised in the open rather than closed spaces,” it said. Among the signatories were Rajmohan Gandhi, Nayantara Sahgal, Romila Thapar, Sharmila Tagore, Vikram Patel, Shah Alam Khan and Sujatha Rao.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 12:22:56 AM |

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