The body of a man who died from COVID-19 in Andhra Pradesh was taken to a burial ground in a JCB earthmover machine. The official responsible for the undignified way the patient was treated in his death has now been suspended by the Srikakulam District Collector.
The incident occurred in Palasa town in Srikakulam district on Friday morning. A video of the incident showed four people dressed in PPE kits, and a JCB driver taking away the body.
According to Palasa-Kasibugga Municipality Commissioner T Nagendra, the sanitary inspector was forced to use the JCB machine, meant for handling construction material, as no one would come forward to handle the patientâ€™s body, or allow their vehicle to be used for transporting the body.
Nagendra said that this was the first COVID-19 death to occur in Palasa and the people were unprepared to handle it and scared of approaching the body.
â€śWe were told that the body had to be disposed of either by the medical and health department, or the municipality. But none of the workers came forward. Our sanitary inspector took two municipality workers along and went to the patientâ€™s house. But none of the vehicles came forward, not tractors, or private vehicles like taxis or autos, or even ambulances,â€ť he said, adding that a few people even drove away with their vehicles, on being asked to offer their help.
Nagendra also said that there were no hearses or other such vehicles available in Palasa, specifically meant for carrying dead bodies.
He claimed that the patientâ€™s family was aware of the situation, and consented to the way the body was finally taken away. â€śWith the consent of the family members, they (the sanitary inspector and the municipality workers) used the JCB machine to lift the body, took it to the cremation ground, and performed the cremation following protocol,â€ť Nagendra said.
Prior to this incident, two people in Srikakulam district have died from COVID-19. While the Community Health Centre (CHC) in Palasa has a few isolation beds for COVID-19 patients, the patient had died while he was under home isolation, according to Palasa CHC Superintendent Prakash Varma.
As of Friday morning, Srikakulam district has reported 62 cases of COVID-19, of which 24 are active. 36 people have been discharged after recovery and two people have died.