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Aug 20, 2020

Protocols for the Safe Handling and Disposal of a COVID-19 Corpse

John Bodden

The safe handling and disposal of COVID-19 corpse involves a string of procedures. While there is no scientific evidence that proves that a COVID-19 corpse is still infectious, there are strict protocols being followed on how to deal with a COVID-19 positive or suspected positive corpse. Today the Ministry of Health outlined these guidelines for the handling of the body from the healthcare facility to the mortuary and to the care of public health authorities or families. As you would imagine, there is a heavy sanitization process at the different stages and those involved have to use a number of personal protective gears. Principal Public Health Inspector John Bodden explains.


John Bodden, Principal Public Health Inspector, Ministry of Health

“One of the major activities that happen when a person dies in a health facility is actually the body transfer from the location if it is in a ward or any other part of the hospital to the morgue where the preparation of the body would be done. Initially, again because it is new, it was recommended that the body should be placed immediately in a body bag, now that recommendation has been modified to state that you can just wrap it and then take it down to the morgue because it doesn’t really pose a threat for spread. We look at a very important component in the transfer of that individual from the room where the patient was to the morgue and it is the containment of body fluids and these are standard precautionary measure that are done by anybody and it is to actually ensure that all these orifices that would be oozing liquids must be capped to ensure that there is no release of liquid while in transport.  And then of course, the body would be wrapped and sent to the morgue and of course all supporting lines that would have been on the individual would have been removed. At the level of the morgue in Belize there are several things that are done there, the tidying of hair, the trimming of nails or shaving – those are basic procedures. We want to say that in the process of preparing the body, you need to ensure that you do little handling as possible, notwithstanding  you have all the PPEs, it is important you maintain limited handling of the body. Autopsy has never been something that is out rightly supported, unless there is significant need for documentation in terms of the cause of death.   We also need to take into consideration that the environment in which the body is housed in the morgue – the virus can remain on the surface up to nine days if not properly disinfected. And that is why we try to limit the body in the morgue in terms of handling and actually conducting any invasive procedure, in fact we don’t recommend for even the embalming of body. That has another connotation when it goes to the community setting, when that body is introduced into the setting and that is not something that has happened in the first four cases that we have had – the fifth case was actually given to the family to do burial.”

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