Other States

Coronavirus | Mumbai crematorium staff battle COVID-19 fears during final procedures

Tough times: Women carrying a gas cylinder from a distribution centre in south Mumbai.

Tough times: Women carrying a gas cylinder from a distribution centre in south Mumbai.   | Photo Credit: VIVEK BENDRE

The city recorded death of 4 patients who tested positive.

A 51-year-old staff member at the crematorium in Mumbai’s Shivaji Park hasn’t been to his Dombivali home since the past four days because of the lockdown, due to coronavirus (COVID-19). He sleeps at the crematorium worrying about one thing — that the virus from the two coronavirus (COVID-19) deceased who were cremated there could be lurking around. “We have followed all the infection control measures but there is so much news about the virus that it is difficult to shed the fear,” said Jawaharlal Rathod (36), a death registration karkun (DRK) at the crematorium.

Also read | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India

“I am in charge of the paperwork and therefore I come in contact with the relatives, ambulance drivers,” said Mr. Rathod, who has been using sanitisers and washing his hands at a regular interval as advised by the medical officer.

First fatality

On March 17, when a 64-year-old man’s body wrapped in a leak-proof plastic and cloth arrived at the Shivaji Park crematorium, the other staff was tense. The deceased, who was Maharashtra’s first COVID-19 fatality, was brought in a special biohazard vehicle and an hour before it arrived, the medical health officer briefed the staff on infection control protocol. “I have handled many unclaimed bodies. I have also handled bodies of HIV and TB patients. But this time, we were asked to be extremely cautious as very little is known about the new virus,” said 47-year-old furnace operator Anil Thakur, who handled the first deceased along with two labourers on duty. It was a first for them to wear aprons, gloves, goggles and masks while handling a body. “Soon as the vehicle arrived, the body was taken to the furnace. We were told that there should be no delay anywhere,” said Mr. Thakur, adding that his wife became extremely paranoid when she learnt about it. “Since that day, she had been constantly reminding me to wear the protective gear properly and be careful,” he said.

Watch | Your COVID-19 queries answered | Watch | What is contact tracing?

‘Responsibility key’

Another furnace operator, Nitin Nagotkar who handled the second patient’s body said there was always a slight fear. “But we understand our responsibility is crucial,” he said.

The Centre’s guidelines on dead body management state that the ash does not pose any risk and can be collected to perform the last rites. But as a precautionary measure, the ash was also disposed by the crematorium staff in these cases.

Mumbai has recorded death of four patients who tested positive for COVID-19. While two bodies were cremated at Shivaji Park, the third was cremated at the Chandanwadi crematorium in south Mumbai. The fourth patient, a Philippines national, was an Islamic scholar who was visiting Indian mosques. Since the last two samples before his death were negative, his case has not been labelled as a COVID-19 death. A Muslim trust in the central suburbs that was first approached by the civic body turned down the request for his burial. “They feared that if the news got out, the community members will not turn up for the badi raat that is coming soon,” said an official, adding that the burial was then carried out in another location. “The staff there too was apprehensive. But we counselled them and convinced them that all the infection control measures were in place,” the civic official added.

The Centre’s guidelines state that there is unlikely to be an increased risk of COVID-19 infection from a dead body to health workers or family members who follow standard precautions while handling the body. The guidelines, however, say that large gatherings should be avoided.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Related Topics
Recommended for you
  1. Comments will be moderated by The Hindu editorial team.
  2. Comments that are abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant cannot be published.
  3. Please write complete sentences. Do not type comments in all capital letters, or in all lower case letters, or using abbreviated text. (example: u cannot substitute for you, d is not 'the', n is not 'and').
  4. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.
  5. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name, to avoid rejection.

Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 6:25:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/coronavirus-mumbai-crematorium-staff-battle-covid-19-fears-during-final-procedures/article31166761.ece

Next Story