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Indian cardinal appeals for cremation of Covid-19 victims

World Health Organization warns that burial carries a risk of the virus spreading via water sources

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Indian cardinal appeals for cremation of Covid-19 victims

Cardinal Oswald Gracias wants people in Bombay Archdiocese to cremate the bodies of Covid-19 victims. (UCA News photo)

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Cardinal Oswald Gracias has appealed to priests and followers in Bombay Archdiocese to cremate people who die from Covid-19 rather than bury them.

The cardinal, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, used an April 2 video message to ask them to follow the instructions issued by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and burn the bodies of Christian victims.

Father Nigel Barrett, spokesman for the archdiocese, told UCA News that the cardinal had also advised people to strictly comply with government restrictions, exercise social distancing and continuously wash their hands with soap to limit the spread of the deadly disease.

“As per the direction of the cardinal, Christian people are supposed to cremate the bodies of victims of Covid-19, but if someone wants a burial they have to follow the directions of the BMC as it has identified one place,” the priest said.

The archdiocese also asked pastors to ensure there are no more than five mourners present at funerals.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the burial of coronavirus victims poses the risk of a further outbreak via water sources. It says the high temperature of cremations kills the virus and there is no risk of it spreading.

Mumbai’s municipal commissioner had issued a directive under the Epidemic Disease Act 1897 to cremate all coronavirus victims.

However, the directive was withdrawn after Maharashtra Minority Affairs Minister Nawab Malik objected. Hours later, a fresh order was issued stating that burials should take place on large grounds so that there is no possibility of the virus spreading in the vicinity.

Father Barrett said families would be allowed burials only if they adhered to WHO guidelines.

The number of Covid-19 cases in Mumbai increased by 103 to reach 433 on April 5, the BMC said. Eight more deaths took the total in the city to 30, the highest figure in India.

As of April 6, India had reported 4,314 Covid-19 cases with 118 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Globally, nearly 70,000 people have died from the disease.

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