The Epidemic: For a More Humane Approach


No mother, no grandmother, no family should be made to face the cruel and inhuman way in which the death of the 15-month old baby Keira has been handled by the authorities. Judging by the avalanche of comments on social media and the reactions of many individuals who have learnt about the sad and tragic death of baby Keira, it would not be an exaggeration to state most Mauritians have been traumatised by this tragic episode and cried in silence with the mother and the grandmother. No pain or sorrow can equal that of a mother and a grandmother, not to speak of the family, who have been denied the possibility of seeing their baby’s face at the time of her final departure, and under such harrowing circumstances.

Can any sanitary protocol be so inhumane?

Several times in the course of this ongoing pandemic this paper has flagged the need to adopt a more humanitarian approach in both the management of these cases, especially those who have had to be admitted and the unfortunate ones who fall victim to the disease. One of the most publicized cases was that of a man whose wife died from the disease, and she was carried from a quarantine centre to the cemetery in an opaque body bag. Not only could he not have a last look at her face but he wasn’t even able to conduct a minimum of funeral rites properly, adding even more to the pain of the loss of a loved one, which only his tears could show to the external world.

We think it is time to say to the authorities: enough is enough.

A WHO pdf document for the ‘Infection prevention and control for the safe management of a dead person’ (from Covid-19) is introduced on 4 Sep 2020 as follows: ‘All measures should respect the dignity of the dead including avoiding hasty disposal of the body of a person who has died of Covid-19.’

Both the WHO document and one from the ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) underline the necessity of respecting the cultural and religious traditions of the bereaved, both cremations and burial being accepted modes. and giving due respect to the dignity of the deceased. There are ample details given of all the safe sanitary measures that can allow this to happen, based on scientifically known evidence about the spread of the virus. There are techniques to sterilize the body bags, and in the case of the baby, we are forced to ask why from such a bag her body could not have been safely transferred to the transparent glass coffin that the family had got prepared? A combination of scientific knowledge, commonsense and above all humaneness on the part of all the handling personnel concerned would have avoided so much of additional and unnecessary distress and sorrow to the grieving family.

All this shows that there may be big policy decisions taken, but there is a failure of communication such that things are not happening at the operational level. There seems to be a failure of leadership at all levels. And this is also the case as regards the follow-up of post-vaccine surveillance, as evidenced in the case of 20-year old Vinessen Magon post his second dose of vaccine. Is there a standing ‘response unit’ at each regional hospital where such a person could have reported in person directly instead of going from one general practitioner to the other before ending up in hospital when it was too late? This is all the more important because the data about the virus are changing so fast and so often that it is impossible for all but those directly concerned – and hence the suggestion of a dedicated ‘response unit’ – to keep abreast and to give the proper advice and appropriate treatment. Besides, there is no pick-up when the so-called hot lines are called.

Revised guidelines with a heavy dose of humanness embedded in them are an imperious necessity, and long overdue, especially that now we are in full-blown epidemic stage, and there’s likely to be more deaths.

* Published in print edition on 14 September 2021

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