The Ministry of Health has issued guidelines for safe disposal of bodies of suspected or confirmed Covid-19 victims.
The guidelines the country has adopted are in line with World Health Organization (WHO) protocols, the Public Health Act Cap 242, Laws of Kenya, Waste Management policies of the Ministry of Health and the Public Health Officers and Technicians Council Scope of Practice.
The guidelines shall be applicable to the handling of remains related to Covid-19 reported within the republic of Kenya and be observed by all health workers, health institutions and persons involved the handling and disposal of such remains.
The new guidelines will also apply to healthcare workers and anyone involved in the management of burial of Covid-19 patients.
They also provide measures for the staff in the funeral homes and holding facilities established for such purposes.
The guidelines have three main processes that must be followed: identification of the deceased, certification of death, and disposal of the human remains.
The safe disposal of remains from Covid-19 should be conducted in a manner that prevents infection, control the spread of disease and is culturally appropriate for the bereaved family.
The Ministry of Health has therefore developed standards guidelines for the safe management and disposal of human remains from deaths arising from Covid-19 confirmed or suspected cases.
The body disposal team shall include a family representative, public health officer, a local administrator (Chief/Assistant Chief), security and any other co ‘opted health professional.
If preliminary investigation suggests a natural death without concern for Covid-19, and if the deceased is properly identified, the body may be transported to a local funeral home/crematory with subsequent certification by a competent health professional.
If investigations meet the definition for Covid-19 at the time of death the Ministry of Health shall be notified and assume jurisdiction to determine the need for laboratory confirmation and autopsy, a designated public health officer and the family shall thereafter facilitate disposal of the human remains.
Deaths occurring outside a health facility will be reported through the established guidelines for notification of deaths from infectious disease causes.
“In addition, the teams involved in handling and disposal of the remains should always consider the cultural appropriateness and other societal concerns,” said the Health Ministry.
Before commencement of the burial, the family must be fully informed about the dignified burial process and their religious and personal rights to show respect for the deceased.
Steps to be followed during the burial according to the new guidelines are as follows
Step 1: Prior to departure: Team composition and preparation of disinfectants
Step 2: Assemble all necessary equipment
Step 3: Arrival at burial site/crematorium: prepare final rites with family and evaluate risks
Step 4: Put on adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Step 5: Placement of the body in the body bag (Deaths outside health facilities)
Step 6: Placement of the body bag in a coffin where culturally appropriate
Step 7: Decontaminate the environment
Step 8: Remove PPE, disinfect, manage waste and perform hand hygiene
Step 9: Return to the hospital or team headquarters