Governor Narong issued four provincial orders on Wednesday night (Mar 23), including one that stipulated how the deceased are to be handled, especially when holding funeral services.
“At present, with the epidemic situation of COVID-19 in Phuket we still have numbers of infected people and deaths. In addition, the medical opinion that the handling of the bodies of the deceased caused by COVID-19 is a matter of special caution. Therefore, measures and guidelines for funeral management have been established to prevent the spread of infections via the body’s secretions,” Governor Narong said in the order.
The order noted:
- It is forbidden to bathe the corpse.
- It is forbidden to use injections to treat the corpse.
- 3 It is forbidden to open the corpse after it has been collected for the funeral.
- If relatives of the deceased wish to bring the body to a religious ceremony, they must follow the instructions of those working in religious ceremonies under the guidelines of the Ministry of Public Health
“No person shall act or perform any act concerning the corpse which may cause an unfavorable hygiene condition which may cause dangerous communicable diseases or epidemics to spread,” the order said.
The order included the standard warnings that as the order is being implemented under the Emergency Decree, parties may not exercise their right to object under Section 30 paragraph two (1) of the Administrative Practices Act B.E.
Any person who violates or fails to comply with the order may be punished under Section 51 of the Communicable Diseases Act B.E. 2558, which incurs a penalty of a fine of up to B20,000, or Section 52 of the same Act, which incurs a penalty of up to one year in jail or a fine of up to B100,000, or both.
Violators may also be punished under Section 18 of the Royal Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations, which incurs a penalty of up to two years in jail or a fine of up to B40,000, or both.
The order was marked in effect from Wednesday (Mar 23) until further notice.
No explanation was given as to why such an order would be issued some 18 months into the pandemic, after hundreds of funerals of COVID-19 victims have already been carried out.
The order does come as Phuket health officials this month have already reported 49 deaths in March alone attributed to COVID-19, bringing the total number of COVID deaths so far this year to 86.
Officials marked 27 COVID deaths in February, compared with 10 COVID deaths in Phuket in January. Previously, Phuket officials last year reported six COVID deaths in December, 18 in November, 44 in October and 55 COVID deaths in September.
The rising rate of COVID deaths being reported in Phuket has coincided with local health officials themselves marking that the victims were already suffering seriously debilitating, even life-threatening, medical conditions, including late-stage cancer, casting doubt over whether the victims died from COVID-19 or because of their pre-existing state of health.
The Public Health Ministry earlier this month announced that it will revise how it records COVID-19 fatalities after finding that up to 30% of people who died with the infection did so due to underlying causes.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the ministry will conduct revisions to more accurately determine the cause of fatalities in relation to COVID-19 infections.
Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit, permanent secretary for public health, said that 10-30% of those who died while infected with COVID-19 were found to have serious underlying diseases, such as cancer.