No burials will worsen COVID-19 crisisFriday, March 05, 2021
The recent announcement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness that, effective March 8, 2021, burials will be prohibited for two weeks has the potential to worsen the COVID-19 crisis.
How come? Assuming an average of three deaths a day related to COVID-19, then there will be 42 bodies to be buried after two weeks. Since many funeral homes are near storage capacity, what will happen to those bodies? What happens if the person with COVID-19 died at home and funeral homes do not want to handle the body for a two-week period? And there is no recourse to public morgues because most are malfunctioning. Since the family cannot force a funeral home to take the dead body, then this is a disaster waiting to happen.
Furthermore, assuming one person dying each day in each parish, it means there will be an additional 196 bodies to be buried. Where will they be stored? Even if there was enough storage space — and there is not — the funeral directors cannot embalm the bodies, because no burial orders will be issued. It means that bodies can only be refrigerated, and in that state the bodies will decompose. That is a public health crisis.
Additionally, my sources tell me that most funeral homes do not have a certified embalmer. Some of these funeral homes are operating a suitcase business. Many 'quick-fix' funeral homes are not equipped to store bodies for extended periods.
A lack of quick burials can compound our coronavirus pandemic. When there is a pandemic or major natural disaster, usually citizens are encouraged to dispose of the dead as quickly as possible, even minus the usual rituals. But we are going in the opposite direction.
The prime minister, in making the announcement about no burials, used the opportunity to berate those people who argued against the curfew hours starting at 8:00 pm. He rubbished these arguments as lacking in logic and common sense. I feel that it will be claimed that my arguments lack common sense and logic because the members of the Cabinet all have common sense and were versed in logic when they implemented this no-burial policy. Furthermore, the people consulted by the Cabinet have common sense and are logical.
One should not believe that COVID-19 regulations that lack common sense and logic are harmless. It seems that the death of 17-year-old Jalisa McGowan of Kingston Technical High School could be attributed to someone lacking common sense and logic. We still wonder if common sense was active in the events that led to the death of Jodian Fearon after giving birth to her child. Jodian and Jalisa are not the only ones to have died after interfacing with regulations lacking in logic and common sense. There are others if I am to believe the testimony of a minister of religion.
It is difficult to discern the logic and common sense in this no-burial order. What's clear, however, is it has the potential to greatly exacerbate the COVID-19 crisis.
Devon Dick is a Baptist minister. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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