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Kisumu’s guidelines on burials spark controversy

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Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o addresses the press on March 30 over the county’s preparedness against coronavirus. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

NyanzaCounty has reported two cases of the virus.

Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o has sparked controversy by introducing tough new guidelines to regulate burials in the wake of growing Covid-19 infections across the country.

The new measures were issued after Kisumu reported two Covid-19 cases, and will require relatives transporting bodies from outside the county to display certificates confirming the mourners had tested negative for coronavirus.Nyong’o yesterday said only a maximum of five relatives would be allowed to accompany the body into any part of the county. Such bodies must be buried within a maximum of six hours upon arrival in the county.

According to the national government, Kisumu has recorded two new cases, both of which were imported.Health CS Mutahi Kagwa said on Wednesday the two male cases, aged 32 and 38, were confirmed from the government’s quarantine facility, and they had travelled from Nairobi to Kisumu for a burial in Kajulu, Kisumu East Sub-county.

Yesterday, Nyongo further directed that the removal of bodies from mortuaries across the county would be done not later than 9.30am and buried within six hours.The governor added bodies being transported outside the county must be accompanied by a cause of death record certificate issued by a government pathologist in the region the person died.

The certificate will then be presented to the county director of public health, who will in turn issue the family of the dead person with written authority before they proceed with their journey.“All persons accompanying such bodies must be in possession of Covid-19 certificates issued at the point of origin, which must be presented to the county director of public health before commencement of such journeys, and written authority granted,” he said.

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According to the governor, the bodies and those accompanying them will be screened at the county’s border points to ascertain cause of death and confirm the mourners have the necessary certificates. Flouting the regulations would attract severe penalties, Nyong’o added.

“Flouting such regulations shall be deemed to be in contravention of the Public Health Act and will be dealt with in accordance to the provisions of the Act.”The new regulations have, however, raised queries on whether the county would be going against national government rules that Covid-19 victims be buried within 24 hours.

Speaking to The Standard, Kisumu County Director of Communication Aloyce Ager, however, said the governor’s regulations would not contravene national regulations.“We do not intend to interfere with the government guidelines. The guidelines on how Covid-19 victims are disposed of will prevail, but we have to enforce out own internal rules to ensure the safety of our people,” Ager said.

Morgue managers have been instructed to hold dead bodies for only 24 hours.Members of the Luo community have raised concerns on how they will conduct burial rituals under the new rules.

While accepting that the new guidelines have interfered with their culture, Luo Council of Elders Chairman Willis Otondi said the regulations were necessary to help the country fight Covid-19.

“We cannot cling to our cultural practises of burying our dead because we are in desperate times. We will follow the national government and the county government’s directives,” said Otondi.
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