Prohibit hospitals from retaining dead bodies due to pending bills, ensure decent burial: NHRC in COVID-19 advisory

The guidelines come in the wake of recent reports of bodies of suspected COVID-19 victims floating in Ganga river in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

May 14, 2021 / 09:55 PM IST

The National Human Rights Commission on May 14 issued fresh guidelines for handling the dead bodies in the wake in the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.

Among other suggestions, the commission insists in the “Advisory for upholding the dignity and protecting the rights of the dead" that hospitals should be prohibited from deliberately retaining dead bodies for non-payment of bills, a timely and decent burial should be ensured and mass burial or cremation of COVID-19 victims should not take place.

“The guidelines issued by WHO, NDMA, Government of India and various state governments have emphasized on the maintenance of the COVID-19 protocol while upholding the dignity of the dead, including decent burial according to respective religious customs and practices. The Supreme Court and various High Courts have highlighted the importance of providing decent burial to dead persons amidst this pandemic. Despite these guidelines, various disturbing facts have surfaced through the media that have reported about the mismanagement/ mishandling of COVID-19 affected dead bodies thereby lowering their dignity,” read the guidelines marked to secretaries of Ministry of Home and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Chief Secretaries/Administrators of all states and Union Territories.

The guidelines come in the wake of recent reports of bodies of suspected COVID-19 victims floating in Ganga river in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The commission has recommended that governments enact a specific legislation to protect the rights of dead apart from setting up temporary crematoriums, sensitizing the staff working in crematoriums/ burial grounds/ cemeteries and encouraging use of electric crematoriums

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A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

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The NHRC emphasized that the government should take care of staff at crematoria, burial grounds and mortuaries who work round the clock during the pandemic

“Since the staff at crematoriums, burial grounds, mortuaries, etc., are working round the clock during this wave of pandemic, they may be paid fair wages to compensate their hard work. Further, they should be vaccinated on priority basis keeping in view the risk they are exposed to,” the advisory reads.
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