Angry residents in Kasungu on Friday forcefully buried a body of a Covid-19 victim, defying frantic appeals by Deputy Speaker Madalitso Kazombo that only health personnel needed to perform the rite.
Kazombo was rebuffed even after he literally lay prostrate in trying to persuade the people at Wimbe Trading Centre that they leave the burial of butcher James Banda to the health personnel who had personal protective equipment (PPE) needed in handling bodies of people who succumb to the highly-infectious Covid-19 disease.
The deceased tested positive for Covid-19 at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe on Friday after he was referred there from Kasungu.
When a hospital ambulance took the body to his family at Wimbe, and a special hospital team—clad in the PPE—was ready for the burial, some family members and sympathisers vehemently opposed the arrangement and insisted that the deceased had not succumbed to Covid-19, but from diabetes and high blood pressure.
Medical reports say people who have underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure are at high risk if infected with Covid-19.
The disease is spreading widely in Malawi, having killed more than 165 people from over 5 280 confirmed cases since the first week of April this year,
Kasungu district health officer Emmanuel Golombe said although the health burial team was at hand, it had to give way to the family members and sympathisers of the deceased who insisted on taking over the burial.
He said he is concerned that most of the community members went on to open the plastic wrappers and the sealed coffin and allowed people to view the body before the burial.
“Our fear now is that many people were exposed… and the most unfortunate thing is that most people still don’t understand the need to protect themselves, and others, from this disease. Going forward, we will try to sit down with the district leadership, including chiefs and other key stakeholders, on how we can give more effective civic education on the matter,” Golombe stated.
In an interview with Nation of Sunday yesterday, Kazombo, who is also Kasungu East MP, expressed regret that emotions ran high over the sickness and eventual death of Banda, whose Covid-19 status he said was confirmed after his death.
He said some relatives had blocked health personnel’s efforts to test him for the disease while ill.
He said: “It was at around 11am in Lilongwe, on Friday and after test results were out, when we learnt that Covid-19 had taken the life of the deceased… but when the body was finally ferried to Kasungu, some people were angry and nearly attacked the ambulance that ferried the body to Wimbe.”
The Deputy Speaker said he was disheartened to see adamant sympathisers breaking open the casket, which he had bought, and conducting the body-viewing ceremony.
“This was despite my lying prostrate and trying to plead with the people to let the hospital personnel to handle the burial,” he added.
Kazombo said he is helping to arrange for Covid-19 tests for family members of the deceased and those who contacted his body.