Kenya: MoH Says COVID-19 Bodies Must Not Be Buried at Night If Preserved Well

Health officials in protective clothes bury the body of Anthony Waswa on May 19.

The Ministry of Health has now clarified that people who die from COVID-19 must not be buried at night.

This follows numerous incidents, particularly in Western Kenya, where victims were buried at night amid protests from family members and locals.

Director General of Health at the ministry, Dr Patrick Amoth, said as long as the body has been taken care of well by public health officers, "the body is safe".

He emphasized of the need to be cognizant of "our cultural practices" and assured that the Ministry will issue new protocols to the counties.

"If a culture dictates that we don't bury at night, please hold on for another 12 hours so that the burial is held the following day," he said, answering a question from a journalist during a tour of Othaya in Nyeri County, where he had accompanied Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe.

"We are going to send an alert to the counties, to remind them of this protocol so that we have a dignified burial of those who succumb to COVID-19," Dr Amoth said.

The assurance follows a burial in Kisumu, of a popular Ohangla musician Abenny Jachinga, who was buried at 2am Saturday, after an earlier burial aborted as residents protested that it was hurried, prompting chaotic scenes.

The family accused authorities of forcing them to bury their kin within 48 hours, yet he did not die of COVID-19. They said he died of pneumonia.

More than 1000 mourners who had gathered for the burial on Friday were teargassed by police after youths pelted officers with stones.

The officers had been deployed to ensure security at the burial, which was resisted by elders and the family who wanted him interred next week, even as the government insisted he must be buried within 48 hours.

In the ensuing melee, youths managed to grab the body from the burial site and marched with it back to mortuary.

Heavily armed police officers were later deployed to the village long after the protests.

Austin Omondi, a brother to the deceased, told journalists that officers knocked his house at 1 am and ordered him to accompany them to the mortuary to identify the body which was then taken back and buried at 2am.

The family is accused the county government of Kisumu of hurrying the burial of the musician "without justification".

They said locals who had lost their kin had not been forced to bury their kin within 48 hours, with others still having bodies in the mortuary.

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