Funeral homes in Argentina have not been given clear instructions on how to handle corpses of those who have died from the Chinese coronavirus, according to a report from national outlet Infobae on Thursday.
The Association of Funeral Service Companies in the Province of Buenos Aires (ASEF) reportedly sent a letter to Minister of Health Ginés González García requesting a meeting to discuss “protocols for the management of corpses infected with coronavirus or presenting a compatible diagnosis” as they “do not have instructions to follow with regard to the pandemic.”
“We went to the Ministry of Health of the Nation because there is no clear information and each funeral home is managed as it can, also depending on the municipality,” Juan Carlos Cuburú, president of the ASEF, told the outlet. “For example, some recommend cremation and others do not. We are asking for a protocol on how to handle corpses that applies to the entire country.”
“We believe that we have to be part of the solution, not the problem,” he continued. “It is not clear how long the virus lasts in the body after the person has died and our duty is to protect the directors of the funeral companies, their employees and the families of the deceased.”
Cuburú added that, after sending the letter to the ministry, he attempted to meet with someone at the Health Ministry headquarters but was turned away.
“They could not receive me and they told me to call a phone number, which was always busy or nobody answered,” he continued. “I don’t think it’s laziness, but rather the great confusion that there is about the epidemic.”
The Ministry of Health responded by saying that there is indeed a protocol for the management of corpses with a probable or confirmed diagnosis of the coronavirus in a document titled “Procedure for the handling of cadavers of COVID-19 cases” that came out two weeks ago.
However, within the document it admits that, at the present moment, there is no “specific guide for the management of the corpses of people who died from the coronavirus,” and suggests applying “what is explained in the World Health Organization 214 guidelines the on Prevention and Control of Acute Respiratory Infections with Epidemic and Pandemic tendencies.”
Furthermore, the PDF document is not visible on the Ministry’s website, nor is it mentioned in the news regarding the coronavirus that it publishes daily on its official site. As a result, there is widespread confusion within funeral homes and services about how to safely manage the rising number of corpses
With its population of 44 million, Argentina has so far recorded 1,975 cases of Chinese coronavirus leading to 70 fatalities. At least 365 people have already made a full recovery. On Wednesday, the country’s socialist government also announced that it would extend the nationwide lockdown beyond April 12th in order to contain its spread.
“We are not going to end the quarantine,” said the country’s socialist President Alberto Fernandez. “What we have to see is what kind of activities we are going to make flexible.”
In Ecuador, the country’s Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner apologized last week after families were asked to keep the bodies of their lost ones, leading to scores of bodies being left on the streets of the city of Guayaquil.