The Centre on Sunday modified the protocol for handing over the bodies of suspected coronavirus patients to their families in Delhi, directing health officials to not wait for laboratory confirmation of infection. The government said the new guidelines were issued on Home Minister Amit Shah’s orders.

The government, however, said that the bodies must be cremated with “abundant precaution” according to the safety guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. In case the deceased turns out to be coronavirus positive, the health officials will undertake contact-tracing.

The government issued the new order after Shah met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal to discuss the escalating coronavirus crisis in the Capital. After the meeting, Shah announced several decisions to tackle the situation in Delhi, including increase in testing capacity and use of railway coaches to house patients.

The new guidelines came amid a sharp increase in Delhi’s coronavirus infections. On Sunday, Delhi reported 2,224 new coronavirus cases and 56 deaths. The Capital’s overall count rose to 41,182 and the toll reached 1,327. Delhi has the third-highest number of cases after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

Last week, the Supreme Court had pulled up the Delhi government for the way patients’ bodies were being handled at hospitals. The top court had said that there have been instances in some states, where bodies were found in garbage bins and that patients were being treated “worse than animals”.

Several reports have emerged of patients’ bodies being manhandled by hospital staff across the country. Some videos from Mumbai, India’s biggest coronavirus hotspot, showed bodies wrapped in bags lying next to coronavirus patients in hospitals. In Kolkata, a widely-shared video of decomposed bodies being dragged into a van at a crematorium had sparked outrage. The West Bengal Health Department later said that the bodies were not of coronavirus patients.

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