Questions around the processes for the burial of Muslim coronavirus patients have been raised, bringing to the fore a range of important issues from an Islamic and health perspective. As it stands South Africa has 402 confirmed cases of Covid-19. Gauteng has the highest cases of the virus and the Western Cape has the second-highest number at 100. The National Health Department has reported no deaths thus far. However, senior specialist and lecturer at UCT’s Forensic Pathology Division, Dr Iekram Hoosen Alli said as the cases increase, it is inevitable that people will succumb to the virus.
“The natural effect of the disease is that we will have one or two deaths but God willing no more than that,” said Alli.
Alli stated that if someone contracts the virus and dies, the cause of death will be ruled as ‘natural causes’ thus deeming the postmortem ritual as unnecessary.
“If anybody dies of the diseases it’s a natural death,” reiterated Alli.
Alli continued by saying it is critical for Muslims who perform the ghusl [washing] of the body to follow strict protocol when handling the body during the burial process to avoid further spread of the virus.
“It is important when receiving the body for burial that PPE is worn,” said Alli.
PPE can be defined as Personal Protective Equipment. Alli said there is a list of apparatus that needs to be sought before the ghusl begins.
“Gloves need to be worn, water resistant gowns, or aprons donned, surgical masks, as well as googles to protect the eyes,” said Alli.
Alli suggested that when it comes to the final greetings and departure that it should be confined to only immediate family.
“The deceased should not be visited by more than the required members of the family, close members only and should be restricted to members under the age of 60 years of age and in good health,” advised Alli.
Alli stated that once the burial process is brought to a close, the transportation of the equipment needs to be handled with care.
“When you transport the body, and you finish with the stretcher and the equipment, it is important to wash down the equipment properly to avoid further spread,” advised Alli.
The best, cheapest, and effective solution to use in this instance is average bleach and water. He also added that it is essential to let the equipment air dry.
“You do not touch the body with bare hands,” Allie added.
Strict rules need to be followed in order to avoid the virus potentially spreading from the deceased to family members or those who handle the body.
Finally, Allie said that the Muslim Judicial Council Cemetery committee needs to ensure that the PPE is available for whoever is in charge of the process or it should not be done.
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