MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippine government released Wednesday guidelines on the handling of the remains of COVID-19 fatalities as it warned funeral service facilities with penalties if they refuse to provide services.
Local government units are tasked to designate funeral service facilities that could handle the remains of COVID-19 fatalities, and to provide financial aid to families of the deceased, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.
The cash grant aims to cover logistics, fuel, and other expenses that will be incurred in the funeral process, he explained. The remains should be cremated within 12 hours.
If the deceased is a Muslim, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the body of the deceased Muslim should be placed in an air-tight sealed bag and buried in the nearest Muslim cemetery within 12 hours with Muslim rites.
The national government granted LGUs the authority to put a price cap on funeral services within their jurisdiction.
Funeral homes that refuse to service or transport COVID-19 remains will be penalized by the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Nograles said.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development, meanwhile, was ordered to provide a funeral support fund of P25,000 to poor people who succumbed to the disease (both confirmed and PUIs), regardless if they were under home quarantine or admitted in a hospital.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the COVID-19 death toll in the country stood at 38. The total confirmed cases of the infectious disease, so far, is 636.
The government said earlier that establishments offering funeral services should remain open throughout the month-long Luzon lockdown period since these are needed by the public. Employees of such establishments are exempted from the lockdown.
The Philippine National Police, however, limited wakes in Luzon to the immediate family of the deceased and ministers or officiants, until April 12.
(Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated that the remains of a Muslim person who tested positive for COVID-19 should be cremated. We apologize for this error)