Long Wait For Bodies To Receive Last Rights As COVID-19 Death Toll Rises In Malaysia

Grim reality

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Long Wait For Bodies To Receive Last Rights As COVID-19 Death Toll Rises In Malaysia
Malay Mail

Death count is high

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen high numbers of deaths caused by COVID-19.

It’s becomes so bad that hospitals have been forced to store the dead in containers as there isn’t enough space in hospital morgues. 

On 8 June 2021, there were 76 deaths, bringing the total number of death due to the virus to 3,536. Out of the 76, five were brought in dead (BID). 

Backlog in management of bodies

If you’ve had someone close to you die recently, you’d probably noticed that it takes the hospitals longer than usual (sometimes even days) to release the body. 

This is probably because the National Institute of Forensic Medicine (IPFN) is facing a backlog in the management of bodies as they deal with the increased number of deaths caused by COVID-19 and unrelated cases. 

The inside on containers where COVID-19 victim bodies are stored
According to a report by Bernama, the bodies of those who died due to COVID-19 have to be managed with the utmost care by frontliners and expediated for burial or cremation. 

Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL) forensic pathologist Dr Salmah Arshad reportedly said that the existing space in the IPFN morgue is not enough, so the bodies of COVID-19 patients are placed in a container that fits 12 to 20 bodies at a time. 

She added that up to 36 bodies could be stored in IPFN morgues, and more space is available at Tunku Azizah Hospital (up to 10 bodies), Tuanku Mizan Armed Forces Hospital (four) and the National Cancer Institute (two). 

She also said that there were 52 coffins and containers as a backup to store bodies. 

Dr Salmah said that there is only one crematorium in Klang Valley run by the City Hall (DBKL), and non-Muslim families that wish to have the bodies of their loved ones be cremated have to wait for their turns. 

“DBKL also provides non-COVID-19 cremation services, so we have to wait for our turn,” she told Bernama. 

According to the report, it takes two to three hours to cremate the body of someone who died of COVID-19, while it only takes about 45 minutes to an hour for those who died of other causes. 

Worrying increase in the number of BID cases

Dr Salmah said that there are more BID cases due to the virus outbreak in recent times, and it’s very worrying. 

She said that there used to be only two to three such cases in a month, but nowadays, they get four to five daily. 

“Compared with last year, we rarely receive cases (deaths) at home, (on the contrary) we receive cases at the hospital. That means patients are admitted to the ward, are treated, and die in the hospital. What worries me now is the deaths outside the hospital, which have not been treated. The symptoms are too rapid and this is depressing,” she told Bernama. 

She added that the third wave is unpredictable as the deaths involve a mix of the old and the young, unlike the previous waves where most of those who died were elderly. 

“The youngest we received who died at home was in their 20s and had no illness. Now everyone has to be careful and follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs), because everyone can be exposed and die because of COVID-19,” she said. 

Dr Salmah advised everyone to stay vigilant even when interacting with neighbours. 

It sounds morbid, and it sure is. Tired frontliners, bodies piling up and loved ones waiting to perform the last rites for their dead family and friends is the reality we are facing. 

It is on all of us to stay vigilant and continue playing our parts to flatten the curve. 

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