During any calamity or a pandemic such as the COVID-19 outbreak, there are serious concerns regarding the management of the dead across the world. Who is supposed to handle the bodies, how can authorities ensure the safety of those handling the bodies and how should people carry out last rites of the deceased without risking further contamination — these are issues which need as much attention as the containment of the disease itself. With proper preparation and planning, we can ensure the safety of healthcare workers on the frontline of the response as well as the dignity of the deceased who are confirmed/believed to have died due to COVID-19.
The ICRC is adapting its existing activities and programmes to ensure the organisation can help address the growing needs globally concerning the dead, their families, and those working to manage the dead. In Asia, the ICRC forensic experts in collaboration with national forensic authorities are developing guidelines on the management of COVID-19 deaths. The ICRC regional delegation in New Delhi is providing technical support to forensic experts in India, Maldives and Bhutan. The delegation is also supporting its primary partners, the Indian Red Cross Society, with personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves jackets and body bags, for frontline volunteers.
Based on its experience from the management of the dead in emergencies, the ICRC has prepared a set of recommendations publicly available in English at this link. It has developed the guidance with recommendations for authorities and forensic institutions for the dignified management of the dead during COVID-19. The ICRC encourages authorities and forensic institutions to incorporate these recommendations and resources into their work practices as a part of their COVID-19 planning and response.