Can Remains of Indians Who Die of COVID-19 Abroad Be Brought Back?

Here’s all you need to know about bringing back human remains of Indians who die of novel coronavirus abroad.

2 min read
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Even as the Centre prepares an exit strategy for Indian nationals stuck abroad, what about Indians who die of COVID-19 in a foreign country? Can they be brought back? Does the government recommend that they be brought back?

Here’s all you need to know about bringing back human remains of Indians who die of novel coronavirus abroad.

Can the human remains of Indian nationals who die abroad of COVID-19 be brought back?

Yes, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that the bodies of those Indian nationals and OCI card holders, who died abroad due to COVID-19 could be brought back. The Centre, however, stressed that the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry in this regard must be strictly adhered to.

Is it recommended to bring back the human remains?

The Health Ministry does not recommend the bringing back of human remains of COVID-19 patients or even suspects of the novel virus. However, family members are allowed to bring the remains back.

Whom should the family reach out to in order to bring the remains back?

The family should contact the nearest Indian Embassies, High Commissions or Consulates.

What happens when the human remains arrive at the airport?

  • The concerned Airport Health Officer (APHO) has to verify the death certificate, mentioning the cause of death – whether it is a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case
  • The APHO is also required to verify the no-objection certificate (NOC) for the transportation of human remains of the deceased issued by the Indian Embassies or High Commissions or Consulates
  • They should also verify the embalming certificate issued by an authorised agency
  • The APHO should ensure that the coffin is undamaged by the airline concerned

Why should the health officer check the coffin?

The APHO will verify the required documents and inspect the packing in accordance with the provisions under the Indian Aircraft (Public Health) Rules, 1954.

If there are any obvious signs of damage to the coffin, the handlers shall use full PPE, cover the coffin in plastic sheets to avoid any contact with the body or body fluids before hand-over of the human remains to the concerned authority for final burial or incineration.

What precautions should be taken by those who handle the remains?

  • The personnel handling the human remains should follow the laid down procedures for donning and doffing of Personal Protective Equipment, inlcuding gloves and masks.
  • They should follow protective measures for COVID-19 like hand-washing with soap and water, etc.
  • The staff handling the human remains will be quarantined for 28 days and their health should be monitored.
  • Their designated vehicles will be disinfected.

What happens if the person has not died of COVID-19?

The Ministry of Home Affairs is currently revising the existing guidelines to bring back the remains of people who have died of reasons other than coronavirus. Watch this space for updates on this.

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