SEREMBAN, May 25 — Performing funeral rites while clad in personal protective equipment (PPE) for hours is one of many challenges faced by the Negeri Sembilan Islamic Religious Affairs Department’s (JHEAINS) COVID-19 (Tajhiz) funeral management team.
Despite having to work up a sweat wearing PPE, 80 Tajhiz staff have voluntarily taken on this noble responsibility to ensure smooth and safe funeral management for those who died of COVID-19.
JHEAINS director, Datuk Mohd Zaidi Ramli, said the staff also had to handle the remains of non-citizens, which had to be kept for more than 10 days due to clearance formalities from their respective embassies.
He said a total of five Tajhiz members would be involved in handling a body at the hospital’s forensic department, right up to the process of shrouding, praying and placing the body into a coffin and arranging transportation.
During the funeral, eight other members are assigned to ensure that the grave is suitable and ready, as well as to lower the body into the grave.
“Our staff face challenges, as they have to prepare everything while garbed in PPE, and at the same time having to manage preparations for the funeral.
“In some situations, these staff have to pump out water from inside the grave before the body can be lowered and buried. There were also incidents where these staff fell into the hole due to the use of heavy and layered PPE,” he told Bernama.
Mohd Zaidi said the deceased’s next of kin sometimes helped in the funeral process. However, this is dependent on the requests of family members and limited to three people only due to safety factors and the need for the next of kin to undergo a quarantine period. Otherwise, the funeral is usually conducted by Tajhiz staff.
He said that the process of digging the graves manually was done by gravediggers who took two to three hours. It would take 30 minutes if using JCB construction equipment (excavator).
Apart from that, the team also assists in the burial of those who died in other states but had to be buried in this state following the family’s request.
He said that, since 2020, Tajhiz staff have managed 58 COVID-related funerals, of which the youngest was of a 26-year-old man and the oldest was an 88-year-old man.
He added that the district health office also monitored the process, implemented in compliance with standard operating procedures, including supplying PPE sets and performing a sanitation process on equipment and staff every time a funeral arrangement is completed.