Iraqi nationals that have perished due to the coronavirus infection are not finding space for proper burials. For some reason, religious authorities, tribes, townspeople are not letting the dead be buried though there is no scientific evidence yet that it could spread via corpses.
Cemeteries have been refusing to take in burials of those who have died of the coronavirus infection. This has been reported in at least two sites in Karbala and Najaf. Sadly, in a misunderstanding that somehow corpses can infect the resident residing nearby, bodies of the perished have been sent back to hospital morgues where they are said to be piling up.
According to the customs followed in Islam, a person must be buried as soon as possible after death, usually within 24 hours. Cremation is strictly prohibited. In some cases, armed men have threatened family members of dire consequences, if they try to bury the deceased in local burial grounds.
While official numbers are simply showing some 400 cases of infection and 42 deaths, the original numbers might be much higher, as the whole population of some 40 million people has not been tested for traces of exposure.
Tribal leaders in the Northeast of the capital Baghdad this week had intervened and prevented a team of health ministry officials from burying four bodies in a cemetery the state had specifically designated for COVID-19 victims.
While top Shiite clerics have given out specific instructions on how burials can be carried out, the actual act is not being done. According to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the country’s top Shiite cleric, those succumbed to COVID-19 disease, must be wrapped in three shrouds. He has insisted authorities facilitate burials.
Also, according to Iraqi health ministry spokesman Seif al-Badr, there is no scientific evidence yet that it could spread via corpses. He said the government was taking all possible precautions when burying bodies, including wrapping them in bags, disinfecting them and placing them in special coffins.
Iraq has been the bedrock of civil war and its infrastructure remains weak to handle a large outbreak. According to the WHO, there are only 14 hospital beds in Iraq for every 10,000 people. This is another reason that patients might perish quickly, making it a very difficult situation for families to tackle death and then respectable last rites.
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