Covid-19: Health ministry prepared to handle birth and death

Two pregnant women among those infected 

Younten Tshedup

Pregnancy, with all its agony and pain is a joyous occasion for every mother. However, in the current pandemic situation, the experience is filled with anxiety and uncertainty.

There are two expecting mothers who are in their first trimester among those infected with Covid-19. While one of them has been moved to the de-isolation facility, one remains in the isolation ward at the national referral hospital.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo during the meet the press session yesterday said that one of the biggest concerns for the ministry is the possible complication that could result from such cases.

However, she said that there is no evidence of vertical transmission, meaning that the virus is unlikely to pass from mother to baby immediately before or after birth. “One has tested negative and is already in de-isolation and the other is in isolation and she should also be coming out soon. We have consulted the hospital staff and everything is taken care of,” said the minister.

Lyonpo said that both the expecting mothers are receiving regular antenatal care (ANC) and the ministry has developed a guideline, which outlines respective roles of health personnel in such situations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while much is still unknown about the risks of Covid-19 to pregnancy and to the baby, mother-to-child transmission of the disease during pregnancy is unlikely.

However, after birth, a newborn can be infected after being in close contact with an infected person, including the baby’s mother or other caregivers.

 

Death due to Covid-19

With six patients recovered and zero death, Bhutan today maintains 100 percent recovery rate.

However, in the event of a worst-case scenario, the health ministry has developed a standard operating procedure (SOP) to manage the bodies.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said that while the country’s main objective remains to prevent any mortality, if people die due to Covid-19, the SOP would ensure that people around are not infected and the deceased is given a ‘dignified’ cremation.

The minister said that they have received a special body bag from Copenhagen, Denmark, that would be used to wrap the body of Covid-19 positive. Hand hygiene including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for those handling the body is specified in the SOP.

Lyonpo said that the body would be prepared and placed in the body bag by health workers and hand it over to the representatives of the Bhutan Red Cross Society, who would then take the body to the crematorium. “We have already trained the Red Cross people on the use of PPEs and how to handle bodies.”

At the crematorium, the body would be placed on the pyre without removing it from the body bag. Family members would be allowed to witness and offer prayers and adequate time to perform funeral rites would be provided. Provision to collect and dispose ash as per the local customs would also be provided.

Unlike in most countries, where families do not get to see the bodies of deceased, Lyonpo said in Bhutan the most dignified cremation would be provided to anyone who dies after contracting the disease.

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