MANILA — The Department of Health assured the public on Thursday that it would be safe to bring home the remains of overseas Filipino workers who died of COVID-19 as long as they are properly sealed.
“Ang protocol kasi 'pag ikaw ay namatay sa infectious disease, kailangan doon pa lamang pagkamatay mo you are sealed off already,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a media briefing.
(Our protocol states that if you die from an infectious disease, immediately after death you should be sealed off.)
She said this is done using two body bags. She said the casket should also be sealed twice.
Vergeire said this as the government is preparing for the flight home of 274 corpses of Filipinos from Saudi Arabia, including 129 COVID-19 fatalities.
The Philippines initially planned to leave the bodies of the COVID-19 patients for burial in Saudi Arabia since local custom do not allow cremation. But the families appealed to the government to bring them home..
Vergeire pointed out that the law on notifiable diseases require the cremation or burial of a body within 12 hours of death.
However, because of the “special circumstance” with Saudi Arabia, she said the bodies would have to be buried as soon as they arrive in the Philippines.
“Pagdating dito sa atin sa bansa, unang-una hindi na nila 'yan pwede buksan. That’s part of the sanitation law. Pangalawa kailangan ng immediate burial. Hindi na 'yan pwedeng pagburulan,” she said.
(As soon as it arrives in the country, the casket cannot be opened. That’s part of the sanitation law. Second, it should be immediate burial. They cannot hold a wake.)
Vergeire said families may fetch the bodies of their loved ones but they should immediately have them buried.