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Relatives Refuse Body, Locals Refuse Rites: 10-hour Delay in Cremation of Bengal’s 1st Covid-19 Fatality

Representative Image

Representative Image

The locals at the cremation ground refused the entry of the body fearing infection and it was finally cremated in an electric crematorium after a 10-hour delay on Monday night.

Kolkata: The first death of a COVID-19 patient in Bengal on Monday afternoon raised serious questions about the handling of the dead body as nobody from the deceased's family turned up at the hospital to sign the documents required for the death certificate and discharge of body.

The locals at the cremation ground also refused the entry of the body in the area and it was finally cremated in an electric crematorium after a 10-hour delay on Monday night.

Although the state government had instructed the hospital authority to supervise the cremation of body (following the WHO guidelines) without handing it over to the family, the signature of one family member is required to fulfill the official formalities.

However, the relatives of the 57-year-old deceased man refused to come to AMRI Hospital fearing they would also get infected with the virus. The man’s wife could not make it as she is currently admitted in the isolation ward of MR Bangur Hospital.

The man succumbed to an infection at a private hospital in Salt Lake. He had no recent international travel history and yet tested positive for the coronavirus, making him the fourth confirmed case in the state on March 20, 2020.

The hospital followed protocols and handed over the body to the state administration, which took it to the Nimtala Cremation Ghat. But panicked locals and staff at the cremation ground refused the body to enter the area, fearing the virus would spread in the locality. Some media vehicles were also targeted and journalists were heckled by a mob.

“We informed the deceased’s distant relative but he refused to come. Then we informed the health department about the problems we faced while releasing the body. Later, his wife’s signature was taken from MR Bangur Hospital where she is admitted. The state administration arranged for a vehicle to carry the body after several hours of desperate attempts. We followed the protocol and handed over the body to the state administration. They took it to the Nimtala Cremation Ghat but I heard they faced problems in cremation due to objection from the locals and the staff. The police had to intervene in the matter,” said Rupak Barua, Chief Executive Officer, AMRI Hospitals.

The body was finally sent inside the cremation ground around 9 pm, nearly six hours after the death.

But the ordeal didn’t stop here. The local residents at Dumdum (where the Covid-19 victim lived) threatened that they would not allow the family members (who are in isolation wards) of the deceased man to live in the locality even after their release from the hospital.

All of this happened despite West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s clear instructions to the officials to tell private hospital authorities to immediately do the needful to prevent the spread of virus from the dead body.

“Please inform the hospital authority to act immediately to handover the body/cremation as per guidelines. Ask them not to be complacent. Tell them to act immediately to prevent the virus from spreading from the dead body,” Mamata told one of the bureaucrats present in the all party meeting on Monday.

The 57-year old was a resident of Dumdum in North 24 Parganas district and was admitted to a private hospital with fever and dry cough. His symptoms intensified on March 19 and after two days his report came positive.

To reconfirm the infection, the hospital once again had sent his swab for testing but the second report also came positive. He was admitted in the ICU of the hospital and died at around 3.35 pm due to multiple organ failure.

All his family members, who came in contact with him in the last one week, have also been kept in isolation.