SHILLONG, April 16 - The mortal remains of the doctor who died of COVID-19 on Wednesday, were laid to rest at the Presbyterian Church cemetery at Raithsamthiah here today, almost 24 hours after his demise.
The deceased was first taken to the electric crematorium at Jhalupara on Wednesday. However, local residents disallowed his cremation, fearing spread of the virus. The district administration tried to convince the local residents to allow the cremation, but they did not relent.
Later, the traditional heads of Nongpoh also reportedly did not allow the deceased to be buried at his farmhouse in Ri-Bhoi district either.
Throughout the night the authorities tried to convince the people to allow the last rites of the deceased, allaying fears of transmission of the virus.
After several rounds of meetings among the public and the district authorities, people of some areas finally came forward to allow the burial. It was then decided that the deceased should be buried at the Presbyterian Church cemetery at Raitsamthiah. A few officials from the district helped in the performance of the last rites.
The unfortunate development has been attributed to the alleged failure of the Health Department to create awareness on the issue of deaths due to COVID-19. There is still no information from the State Health Department about the national and international protocol that is followed to handle bodies of those who die of the disease. It has also failed to dispel fears about virus transmission from the dead bodies.
According to the Union Health Ministry, �the main driver of transmission of COVID-19 is through droplets. There is unlikely to be an increased risk of COVID infection from a dead body to health workers or family members who follow standard precautions while handling the body.�
The Ministry states that �only the lungs of dead COVID patients, if handled during an autopsy, can be infectious. The ash does not pose any risk and can be collected to perform the last rites.�
The same guidelines have also been laid down by the World Health Organization. However, the Meghalaya Health Department has failed to highlight these vital points to the people and has still not taken a cue from the latest incident in the State.