By James Gitaka and Brian Okoth.
Drama ensued at Kiplombe Public Cemetery in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County on Friday, September 11, when mourners exhumed a 32-year-old woman’s body, saying they couldn’t allow the Government to bury her without the community viewing her remains.
The deceased, who worked as an agrovet attendant in Eldoret Town, was popular among the youth, hence the huge turnout by the young people at her burial ceremony Friday afternoon.
The woman died at her Eldoret home on Saturday, September 5, with reports suggesting her samples tested positive for COVID-19.
Four health workers, dressed in PPEs, had Friday 1pm overseen the woman’s burial at the Kiplombe Cemetery, and while planning to leave, the mourners threatened to exhume her remains, forcing the officers to warn the crowd against making good on their threats.
The mourners said they wanted to view the woman’s body because she “loved us genuinely, and, on several occasions, bought us alcohol”.
Taking advantage of their huge numbers and the absence of police officers at the event, the youth forced the health officers away and embarked on exhuming the woman’s body.
Upon disentombing the woman’s remains, they threw away a polyphone paper that had been used to wrap her casket.
They, thereafter, opened her coffin and viewed her body in turns for close to 30 minutes before lowering the casket back into the grave. All this while, the deceased’s family watched from a distance.
The mourners, thereafter, filled the grave with soil, and made their prayers before leaving in small groups.
During the one-hour drama, a section of the mourners were heard saying: “hakuna corona Kenya, na wanataka kuzika huyu mrembo ni kama alikufa na hiyo ugonjwa (there is no coronavirus in Kenya, yet they wanted to bury the deceased like a victim of COVID-19, [we could not allow that to happen].)”
Their remarks come on the back of continued reminder for caution by the Health ministry, urging Kenyans not to drop their guard, even as the number of daily new infections continue to decline steeply compared to previous months.
Last Monday, September 7, the Government hinted at revising burial protocols after new research backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that bodies cannot spread COVID-19.
Kenya’s Head of Public Health, Dr. Francis Kuria, while addressing journalists at Afya House in Nairobi last Monday, said: “soon health officers won’t be deployed to oversee the burial of COVID-19 victims”.
“We know people have had concerns over [the presence of] ‘men in white’ [at burials of COVID-19 victims], we hope the protocols, as we roll them out, will make sure you do not see so many men in white again,” he said.
Dr. Kuria added that bodies would, henceforth, be released to their next-of-kin for interment.
“We have finalised the revised protocols that are going to guide us while conducting burials moving forward… Hopefully, the protocols are going to address the concerns of stigma,” he said.
Kenya on Friday, September 11 recorded 190 new COVID-19 infections from a sample size of 4,609, pushing the country’s caseload to 35,793, the Health ministry said in a statement.
However, four more people succumbed to the disease, pushing Kenya’s death toll to 616.
On a positive note, 395 COVID-19 patients were declared healed Friday, pushing the total number of recoveries to 22,422.