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MMDA proposes ‘cremate now, pay later’ scheme for Covid-19 fatalities

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The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) proposed a “cremate now, pay later” plan for coronavirus disease 2019-related deaths as well as a funeral assistance of P25,000 from the Department of Social and Welfare Development (DSWD).

MMDA spokesperson Celine Pialago said the proposal was made during an online meeting Thursday led by the MMDA on the management of Covid-19 fatalities attended by representatives from the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine National Police, the University of the Philippines, as well as representatives and owners of various crematoriums and funeral service companies.

During the meeting, she said some crematorium facilities have agreed to accept the P25,000 for crematory services, while funeral companies with no crematoriums would have the option to partner with a crematory facility.

“It was proposed that if a funeral service company has no crematorium, it will be given the discretion to partner with a crematory facility and they will decide on how to divide the P25,000,” Pialago said.

If the religion of the person who died of Covid-19 does not permit cremation, she said cadavers may also be buried.

To ensure that the cremation of Covid-19 deaths would be completed in the shortest time possible, she said it was also proposed that all crematoriums, whether public or private, would be required to accept bodies of Covid-19 related deaths irrespective of residence.

The MMDA, as one of the lead agencies on the management of Covid-19 deaths, will establish a communication link between funeral service companies in Metro Manila and government agencies.

“The MMDA will establish a communication platform (Viber group) to serve as a link among crematorium facilities, funeral services, and government agencies in Metro Manila,” Pialago said.

To address delays in the cremation of Covid-19 deaths, she said it was also proposed that the DOH fast- track the processing and issuance of death certificates, while a temporary certification may also be issued by an authorized representative of a hospital which would include the name, date and time of death, and the cause of death of the deceased.

Each hospital, she said, would have to appoint at least two authorized signatories for the issuance of a death certificate or temporary certification.

To ensure that personnel of funeral and mortuary services will be kept safe from a possible Covid-19 infection, she said hospitals will provide cadaver bags and personal protective equipment (PPE) for the handling of the remains infected with the disease.

She said that the government will ensure the availability of cadaver bags and PPE sets in all public and private hospitals, with the DOH noting that 7,000 cadaver bags were currently available at the Office of Civil Defense and will be given to those who will submit a formal request.

In the case of a rapid increase in Covid-19 deaths, she said some crematoriums may be designated as the ideal facility to handle Covid-19 bodies depending on its location and capacity.

Reefers, or refrigerated containers, will also be installed in the designated facilities to store bodies awaiting cremation.

On Wednesday, the MMDA was designated as the coordinating agency for the proper disposal of the remains of Covid-19 deaths.

In a previous #LagingHanda briefing, Pialago said that while the MMDA leads the coordination between national government agencies, local government units, health facilities, and funeral companies, the agency's personnel would not be responsible for the actual logistics or handling of Covid-19-infected cadavers.

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