Egypt's Health Minister Hala Zayed has instructed the Egyptian Ambulance Organization (EAO), which is part of the health ministry, to take control of conveying all bodies of those who have passed away from coronavirus to be buried, after repeated refusals by hearses to do so.
The ministry said in a statement on Sunday that it is responsible for the washing and shrouding of dead coronavirus patients, and the Preventive Medicine Sector (PMS), part of the ministry, will supervise the burial process.
The decision comes a few hours after attempts to prevent some burials by people concerned that burials would allow the virus to spread.
Egyptian police fired tear gas and arrested 23 people in a Daqahliya village on Saturday after protesters attempted to prevent the burial of a doctor killed by the coronavirus.
Ministry spokesman Khaled Meghad explained that bodies do not transmit the coronavirus as long as preventative measures are taken.
“Each fatality case of the respiratory illness has been transferred to the mortuary shrouding in sheets and on a sterilised and cleansed trolley,” he said.
The team responsible for washing and transferring the bodies must wear a "thick" protective suit covering the arms and chest and extending to the bottom of the knee, in addition to using a face mask, medical gloves that cover the suit to the wrist, a cap, and plastic shoe coverings, the spokesman noted.
"All the protective gear has been put on and taken off properly and the workers wash their hands precisely after that,” he said.
The team responsible for washing coronavirus corpses also wear personal protection gear and the entry of individuals whose presence is unnecessary is prohibited; however, if necessary, they must stay more than one metre away from the corpse and wear gloves, a mask, a face shield, a cap, and shoe protection.
“The body parts that may discharge secretions must be covered with liquid-proof dressings,” he said.
After the washing and shrouding, the body is always transferred inside an “impermeable” bag and “closed” coffin with the lowest number of people possible besides the deceased person, and using personal protection tools as well, said Megahed.
He added that the coffin is only opened during the burial.
He noted that the people who transfer the body from the coffin to the cemetery should take all previous preventative measures and wash their hands with soap and water for not less than 40 seconds, or rub them with alcohol.
All surfaces that have been touched by the deceased, including the bed, the mortuary and the surfaces of the conveying vehicle and coffin, are purified using the disinfectants approved by the health ministry.
The flu-like virus has so far killed 159 people and infected 2,065 across the country.
The burials of coronavirus victims are often held in secret in Egypt under police supervision, with the attendance of only close family members.