The living pose greater covid19 risks than the dead


CONVERSATIONS with Trinis suggest that last rites of covid19 deceased are not treated with respect and dignity. Families don’t get to properly bid farewell because of rules. Public safety should never be compromised.

But common sensical applications should also not be ignored when treating the deceased who died of covid19. The deceased does not pose as much threat to public safety as the living. The probability of covid19 infection from the dead is minimal – millions of times lower than getting covid19 from the living.

Families and communities can have proper and dignified burial or cremation rites for the covid19 deceased. The risks of attending a funeral for a covid19 victim is not any higher than that of attending a rite for someone who died from other causes or attending a religious institution for regular worshipping.

TT has countless biologists and biochemists who would have studied virology or virus contamination. I have not seen anyone address this issue of covid19 infection from a deceased.

I may be known as a pollster and social commentator, but I am also a degree holder in biochemistry and taught said subject as well as worked in biology labs for several years before making the transition to social science almost four decades ago.

My recollection from biology studies is a virus dies with its host, and thus the chance of the covid19 virus moving from the dead to the living, while possible, is very remote.

Tens of millions of people are hosts to covid19. The virus cannot reproduce without a living host. In theory, once the host dies, so does the virus. The covid19 virus survives for only a few hours (at most) without a host.

Of the millions of funerals of victims of covid19, only one person is known to have contracted the virus from the dead. Contrast this figure with the hundreds of millions who got infected by coming in contact with the living.

As long as proper safety measures are in place (safe distancing and wearing of PPE), normal funeral rites are safe (safer than going to a market or riding a maxi). In fact, in the US and other developed countries, almost normal funeral rites are being allowed.

When the virus broke out in January 2020 in the West, it was not clear how the virus spread. It was a mystery; scientists took a long time to understand its behaviour. In fact, it is still a mystery how it is mutating and combating the several vaccines.

Thus, the deceased was disposed of in closed bags, closed caskets (families could not see the face of loved ones), and closed rites from a far distance. But as scientists got an understanding of the virus’s behaviour, coffins have been open over the last year.

Also, the dead is now ritually washed in America and properly dressed and displayed in full view. I attended funerals of several victims in New York; many Trinis and Guyanese who I knew died of covid19 in the US. I presided over the Hindu funeral rites of my mother who was a covid19 victim, including repeatedly touching her body as required by Hindu scriptures. Knowing the science, I had no reservations about touching her body.

I know of others who performed similar rituals for family members who died of covid19. None of them (or myself) contracted the virus from the deceased (and I did not even wear PPE when touching my mom’s body). Several individuals contracted covid19 from living family members who were covid19 positive (a few of who later died from the virus).

It is natural for people to be fearful of contracting the virus from the deceased covid19 victim. I too was very fearful and avoided funerals of covid19 deceased in the first several months of the pandemic. But it is now reassuring that the virus will not jump from dead to living.

No funeral worker (at a funeral home, crematorium, or graveyard) has been infected with the virus from handling the deceased. A lone case was that of an exposed pathologist (who did not wear PPP) who performed an autopsy of a covid19 victim some 15 months ago.

Once you wear PPE and maintain physical distancing, you will be safe. People should be more concerned about contracting covid19 from the living rather than the dead.

Thus, the Government should consider allowing normal funerals – open coffins and cremations and attendance in public places. Families should be allowed to perform burials and cremations according to prescribed cultural and religious practices as the dead do not pose covid19 risk.

Attendees should take the necessary precautions to limit covid19 exposure from the living.


"The living pose greater covid19 risks than the dead"

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