The Ministry of Home Affairs on Saturday gave permission to bring back bodies of Indian nationals and Overseas Citizen of India cardholders who died of Covid-19 in other countries, albeit under strict adherence to relevant guidelines, PTI reported. However, at the same time, it recommended against it and said retrieving mortal remains of suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases should be avoided.
In an official communication, the ministry directed airport authorities to follow the Standard Operating Procedure laid down by the health ministry while making arrangements to bring back the mortal remains of Indians.
The government said that if the human remains of a suspected or confirmed Covid-19 case arrive at Indian airports, the Airport Health Officer will have to first verify the death certificate to confirm that the person either died of the coronavirus or was a suspected case. It will then have to verify the no-objection certificate for the transportation of human remains issued by the Indian Embassies, High Commissions or Consulates.
All airlines have been asked to ensure that no external damage is caused to the coffin. This will also be inspected by the Airport Health Officer in accordance with the provisions under the Indian Aircraft Public Health Rules, 1954, the home ministry said.
If there are any obvious signs of damage to the coffin, the handlers will use personal protection equipment and cover the coffin in plastic sheets to avoid any contact with the body or bodily fluids before it hands over the body to concerned authorities for the final burial or incineration.
The funeral will be performed according to the norms for burial or incineration for human remains with high risk pathogens as laid down by the government. Meanwhile, those who will be involved in handling the body will be monitored for 28 days and the vehicles carrying the body will also be disinfected.
Furthermore, it is the duty of the Airport Health Officer to ensure the airlines transporting the bodies also disinfect the aircraft. In addition, the staff handling the bodies will also be quarantined for 28 days.
However, the home ministry clarified the ashes remaining after cremation do not pose any risk to the relatives.
The total number of coronavirus cases in India reached 26,496 on Sunday morning and the toll rose to 824. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address India about the coronavirus situation during his monthly radio programme Mann ki Baat at 11 am.