The Indian Council of Medical Research said on Tuesday that the survival of the coronavirus in a dead body gradually decreases with time, according to scientific studies conducted on the matter, PTI reported. However, no specific duration has been established till now following which a body can be declared “non-infective”, it added.

The council made its observations in a report called ‘Standard guidelines for Medico-legal autopsy in Covid-19 deaths in India 2020’, which was released on Tuesday. In the report, the medical body answered some of the frequently asked questions about the treatment of bodies of those who died of the infection.

On the protocol to be followed for performing an autopsy on a Covid-19 suspected body with a negative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR result, ICMR said that considering the relatively high rate of false negative results in the testing technique, professionals are advised to treat every patient as a potential case of the coronavirus.

Therefore, it is advisable to adopt necessary precautions and non-invasive autopsy techniques while handling the body for as long as the unprecedented health emergency persists, it said. The guidelines for this technique should be used to reduce the risk of the infection spreading to the mortuary staff, police personnel and contamination of mortuary surfaces, the ICMR added.

Misconceptions about the ways the virus could spread have led to harassment of doctors and healthcare workers over the past few months, and disruption of funerals of patients.

The medical body also said that surface disinfection using 1% hypochlorite or 70% alcohol solution does not provide protection against Covid-19 during an autopsy. This is because even mucosal surfaces, such as those in nasal and oral cavities, can be a source of transmission.

The chances of contracting the infection among those who handle the bodies is negligible if proper precautions are taken, the ICMR said. This includes double-bagging the body and handling it with proper personal protection equipment. It, however, added that every hospital should have dedicated staff for the transfer of the bodies to the mortuary.

In case there is shortage of staff at a mortuary, additional staff should be deputed for the transportation of the body by hospital authorities. For this, the ICMR encouraged the involvement of non-governmental organisations and social welfare departments.

India has so far reported 1,06,750 cases of the coronavirus, including 3,303 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

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