As T&T battles to stem the spread of COVID-19, one funeral home owner is advising people to consider live-streaming funerals and such gatherings as another measure to reduce the spread of the virus.

Candice Simpson owns and operates Shalom Funeral Chapels Ltd at Couva and Port-of-Spain.

During a telephone interview, Simpson said as public fears continue to mount, she is expressly concerned how the death of a patient from COVID-19 could still negatively impact the living.

Describing funeral service providers as “the end of the food chain,” Simpson said, “My advice to the public is to get as much information you can about the life span of the virus.”

Referring to medical research, she explained, “You basically have somewhere between a nine and 12-hour life span of this virus on inanimate objects, and as soon as someone dies, he/she becomes an inanimate host.”

She advised, “We need to give time between the time of death and when we interact with this deceased person.”

Indicating her biggest concerns now lay with the Muslim community who dispose of their dead within 24 hours of death, Simpson said, “When a death occurs, we know that funerals are very quick in that aspect of society and I would want to caution them to consider, because of this particular situation, to give space between the actual time of death and when they begin handling the human remains.”

Additionally, she also warned pathologists and mortuary attendants, “to give that space…at least one day or 24 hours.”

She said similar advice applies to these groups of people when someone dies from HIV/Aids where a 48-hour period is prescribed before those human remains are handled as to allow the virus to die in the host.

Simpson said the universal precaution of time between the onset of death and exposing members of the public wanting to pay their respects, could potentially save others from contracting the virus.

Classifying such events as public gatherings, Simpson said, “You have a great potential of spreading this virus in that type offsetting is not enough time has elapsed to allow that virus to die in this inanimate host.”

Simpson said the virus would have a global impact on the Muslim and Jewish communities as they both dispose of the deceased very quickly after death.

Asked what measures she had introduced to protect her employees, Simpson said it included limiting the amount of time spent travelling to and from work as they would now operate by appointment only; setting up more portable sanitisation stations throughout the two offices; implementing a double-gloving process; and reducing walk-ins and employee interactions.

A further request has been issued for members of the public to also reduce the numbers of those coming in to make funeral arrangements as it would protect both employees and clients. She is also engaging in “foot bumps” as a way of greeting.

Meanwhile, she urged other funeral home operators to seriously consider employing the embalming process right now as “it is not only something for presentation but primarily, it is for the actual internal disinfection of these remains.

“When that chemical gets into the bloodstream, it is also combating this virus from an internal level,” she said.

Simpson reinforced the need to remain calm, not panic and refrain from buying out the emergency supplies without any thought for others who would also need the stock to see them through their quarantine period.

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