Amid surging coronavirus infections, the Karnataka government has issued revised guidelines on handling bodies of COVID-19 patients where stress has been laid on avoiding autopsy unless it has to be done for special reasons.
There have been instances of undignified disposal of bodies at some places in Karnataka and stigmatising families where people were tested positive for coronavirus.
Issued by the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare Services, the revised circular has given a set of directions on handling such bodies taking utmost precautions to avoid contracting the disease.
"Autopsies should be avoided. If autopsy is to be performed for special reasons, following infection prevention and control practices should be adopted," the directorate said in its circular.
Autopsy should be done by a trained team with a limited number of forensic experts and support staff, and in an adequately ventilated room.
The directorate has laid emphasis on protecting the dignity of the dead, cultural and religious traditions.
It said there should not be any hasty disposal of the bodies and asked the hospitals not to insist on conducting a coronavirus test in each case of death.
"Only in suspected COVID-19 deaths with a history of influenza-like illness or severe acute respiratory infection symptoms, swab shall be taken for COVID testing within six hours of death," the circular said.
Bodies should be handed over to the family in a clean transparent, leak-proof, zipper body-bag in a dignified manner with a copy of dos and don'ts in English and Kannada, the directorate said.
The directorate has said not more than 20 people should attend the funeral and has permitted viewing of the body by unzipping the face end of the body bag.
Bathing, hugging and embracing the body should be avoided, it said.
There are a set of directions to those health workers and paramedics who handle the bodies with stress on hygiene, proper usage of personal protection equipment.
Also, the health workers should be cautious while dealing with sharp objects.
They have also been asked to plug oral and nasal orifices to prevent leak of body fluid.
However, embalming has not been allowed.
Regarding transportation, the directorate said the remains should be secured in a decontaminated body bag and instructed that all standard protocols be followed.
Noting that coronavirus can remain infectious on surfaces, the directorate insisted upon cleaning and disinfecting all touch surfaces.
Ever since the outbreak of coronavirus in Karnataka, it has claimed about 2,900 people till Thursday evening.