Cremation of Covid bodies handled well, official says

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Crematorium for Covid-19 victims at Wat Russey Sanh in Dangkor district on Tuesday. Hean Rangsey

A senior Phnom Penh Municipal Hall official has explained to families whose members have died from Covid-19 that the bodies were cremated properly.

To date, more than 800 bodies of Covid-19 victims have been cremated, according the deputy municipal governor Keut Che.

The response came after a Facebook user under the name Intry Chetsmosh alleged on July 18 that some corpses had disappeared with no officials explanation.

“My sister-in-law died from Covid-19 at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital [in Phnom Penh] on June 30, and as of July 18, the body had not been cremated. I asked the hospital and they said they did not have the time to find the body.

“How many months does it take for the body of a Covid-19 patient to be cremated?” the post said.

Reached for clarification on July 21, Che told The Post that the case had already been handled and the body was not lost as claimed.

“The Facebook post has been deleted and he [Chetsmosh ] has already apologised to authorities. He mistakenly contacted the Ministry of Health [instead of relevant authotities]. Actually, the body of his sister-in-law was already cremated and he has received the ashes,” Che said.

He explained that when there are many Covid-19 corpses, the bodies are packed and labeled with a number and placed in freezers. The bodies are cremated according to the number and not randomly.

“The ashes were prepared properly and named. The ashes were placed in the pagoda where the bodies were cremated. However, relatives did not contact the sub-commission in charge of handling corpses and instead contacted the health ministry, which is not responsible for it,” he said.

According to Che, the municipal hall is planning to construct more crematoriums. When there are enough, the cremation of Covid-19 corpses will run more smoothly.

“I asked people to cooperate with authorities and medical personnel because Covid-19 is a matter that concerns all of us. So, to end this February 20 community outbreak, it requires the participation of everybody to maintain preventive health measures,” he said.

Municipal Department of Health director Ngy Mean Heng on July 16 issued a directive assigning four pagodas in the capital for cremations – Ang Ta Minh, Kork Banchan, Chonlong Mlou and Kraing Thnong. The directive stated that only 10 family members and relatives are allowed to attend a funeral and they must adhere to preventative health measures in place.

A Phnom Penh resident who asked not to be named told The Post on July 1 that her grandmother died of Covid-19 on July 1, and her body was cremated immediately after her death.

Municipal governor Khuong Sreng last week urged officials to focus on the important tasks and assist each other in solving any Covid-19 related problems that arise.

“So far, authorities have performed their jobs very well. We have cremated hundreds of bodies of Covid-19 victims without infecting anyone. This is the pride of our medical teams who have carried out health measures well including packing and protection,” he said.

Health minister Mam Bun Heng on July 11 issued a directive on safety and management of the bodies of Covid-19 patients. He instructed relevant authorities to handle corpses safely and with respect, and prevent infection and any risk to public health.