COVID Watch | 13th July 2020


New Guidelines for Burials

The government issues renewed guidelines for burials of COVID-19 bodies after the World Health Organization finds no evidence that the bodies of deceased COVID-19 patients can transmit the virus to living persons.

Previously, hospitals were directed to perform the ritual cleansing of the body by staff equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE), and transferred to a coffin before being handed over to the bereaved family. Only five people were permitted to attend burials keeping in view the restrictions imposed by section 144 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which outlaws gatherings of upwards of five people in public spaces.

Due to delays in surrendering the body after disinfection and other objections to restrictions on performing burials rites, people often clashed with healthcare personnel. However, under the new guidelines, families are allowed to perform the ritual cleansing and other funeral rites, provided they use gloves and then wash their hands thoroughly afterwards. Funeral attendees are to observe a distance of two meters from others and wear masks and gloves during the body’s viewing. Relatives are advised not to touch or kiss the deceased’s body.

NCOC Issues SOPs for Eid

The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) issued a revised list of guidelines to limit person-to-person transmission during cattle sales and slaughter for Eid al-Azha. Under these guidelines, district authorities should ensure cattle markets must have manned entry and exit points to check commuters’ temperatures, and a hand sanitizing station to ensure customers sanitize their hands before entering the market.

Vendors and buyers must observe social distancing, and wear masks at all times, while vendors are expected to maintain a queue keeping in mind the mandated two meter distance. Touching animals without gloves is strictly prohibited. To prevent crowding at cattle markets, the government has urged the public to opt for online e-markets for the sale and purchase of sacrificial animals.

The slaughter should not be carried out in public spaces, and people are advised not crowd the area. Butchers should thoroughly disinfect and wash their hands with soap before and after the slaughter – PPE as well as gloves and masks should be worn.

For congregational Eid al-Azha prayers, mosques should conduct thermal screenings and provide hand sanitizer at entry points. A distance of two meters should be observed, and the prayer spots should be clearly marked. Worshippers should wear masks and gloves, and bring their own prayer mats, while the mosque should ensure no carpets are laid down and that the floor is thoroughly cleaned.

Critical Cases Fall by 28%

Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar claimed the NCOC has observed a 28% reduction in critical cases since Pakistan crossed the 100 day mark in its fight against the global pandemic. The reduction in critical cases, as well as a notable “flattening of the curve” was attributed to

the government’s effective policy, including a combination of smart lockdowns in hotspot locales, stronger and stricter enforcement of SOPs, and greater public understanding of the effects of the virus through awareness campaigns.

Cases Decline as Public Avoid Hospitals

The general public’s misconceptions over the healthcare sector have reduced the amount of people visiting healthcare facilities to get tested, meaning many COVID-19 cases go undetected, according to a Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) representative. False claims that healthcare facilities are virus hubs and are deliberately facilitating deaths is the main reason for the public’s wariness of hospitals. As a result, rather than visit healthcare units to get tested for the virus, symptomatic people are opting to go into self-isolation. Moreover, grievances over official guidelines to withhold COVID-19 bodies for disinfection before being handed over to next-of-kin, and citizen’s general nonchalant attitude toward the pandemic situation also contributing to keeping many cases hidden.