Palak a journalism graduate believes in simplifying the complicated and writing about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. She calls herself a " hodophile" or in layman words- a person who loves to travel.
The Ministry of Home Affairs on Saturday, April 25, allowed the bodies of Indian nationals and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders who died abroad due to the novel coronavirus to be brought back, provided the guidelines are strictly followed.
The Ministry, in a notification, has said that the airport authorities are required to follow the protocols laid down different government agencies and abide by the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
It is clarified that "immigration functions in respect of the arrival of dead bodies and mortal remains of the Indian nationals/ OCI cardholders are permitted subject to strict adherence to the guidelines/ instructions issued by various ministries and departments related with management of COVID-19 and submission of no objection, approval and concurrence from the Ministries of Health and External Affairs in this regard," the communication clarified.
The SOP defines the human remains as the dead body and the exhumed body of a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patient.
It has further clarified that the importation of the human remains of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case into India is not recommended.
However, if such human remains of a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case arrives at the Indian airports, it is the duty of the concerned Airport Health Officer (APHO) to ensure that the guidelines in this regard are diligently followed.
The process involves the APHO verifying the death certificate which would mention the cause of the death as either confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case.
Additionally, verification of the No-Objection Certificate (NOC) for the transportation of human remains of the deceased issued by the Indian Embassies or High Commissions or Consulates needs to be carried out.
Also, Embalming certificate issued by an authorised agency is one of the major requirements.
It is the responsibility of the airline concerned to examine the package, also to ensure that the external packaging of the coffin is not damaged.
The APHO will verify the required documents and inspect the packing in accordance with the provisions under the Indian Aircraft (Public Health) Rules. 1954, the notification said.
According to MHA, in case there are any signs of damage to the coffin, the handlers are required to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), cover the coffin box in plastic sheets as a protective measure before handing over the human remains to the concerned authority for burial or cremation.
The person handling the human remains should abide by the COVID-19 protective measure guidelines including wearing the PPE and sanitising oneself using soap and water.
Further measures include burning or incinerating the coffin following the norms for burial or incineration for human remains with high-risk pathogens.
To ensure safety, handlers would be monitored for 28 days and the vehicle used for the purpose will be disinfected as per the norms.
The concerned airline involved in the process is also required to carry out the disinfection of the aircraft as per the prescribed norms. Also, the staff members handling the cargo (human remains ) shall be quarantined for 28 days.
The MHA said the ashes remaining after the cremation offer no risk to the relatives who handle such mortal remains. And it would be cleared in accordance with the provisions under the Indian Aircraft (Public Health) Rules, 1954.
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