Viral: Family insists on holding wake for suspected COVID-19 patient despite warning

A deceased patient suspected of COVID-19 being brought home for a wake in Kolaka regency, Southeast Sulawesi. Photo: Video screengrab
A deceased patient suspected of COVID-19 being brought home for a wake in Kolaka regency, Southeast Sulawesi. Photo: Video screengrab

It’s hard to imagine losing a loved one and not being able to give them a proper send-off, but a family in Kolaka regency, Southeast Sulawesi who recently lost someone suspected of having COVID-19 is facing criticism in Indonesia for deliberately ignoring safety protocol by holding a proper wake for her.

According to reports, a 34-year-old female patient died on Monday after five days of isolation at the Bahteramas General Hospital in the nearby city of Kendari, where she had been under observation for exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms but had not officially tested positive for the disease. 

Videos of her family bringing her body home for a wake have gone viral, reportedly after they insisted that she was not infected with the coronavirus.

In the next video, members of the family removed the plastic wrap of the deceased, kissed her, and prepared her for a bathing ritual, as is customary in Islam before burial.

Rabiul Awal, Southeast Sulawesi’s spokesperson for COVID-19-related matters, confirmed that the family deliberately refused to follow COVID-19 protocol related to handling of dead bodies despite warnings from local health authorities.

“The hospital offered a handling protocol like the one for deceased patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, but the family insisted and refused. We have evidence in a release signed by the deceased’s husband,” Rabiul said, as quoted by Tempo.

Rabiul said that the body was initially sealed in an airtight plastic wrap and was set for burial without a wake or funeral, as has become government protocol for dead COVID-19 patients in order to prevent the coronavirus in the deceased from infecting others.

“If [the family] understood this, then they would’ve avoided [holding the wake]. But there’s the family perspective as well,” he said.

After the above videos went viral, the police and military say that they will take stern action against anyone who refuses to follow COVID-19 protocol on handling of the deceased. 

Vice President Ma’ruf Amin had previously called on the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country’s highest Islamic clerical body, to issue a fatwa (religious edict) exempting Islamic funeral rites for deceased COVID-19 patients so government protocol on handling of dead bodies can be observed.

As of March 25, Indonesia has 790 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 31 recoveries and 58 deaths.

Also Read — Donate to Indonesian healthcare workers on the frontline of fight against COVID-19 through these trustworthy charities

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