WLD 200204 MANILA CORONAVIRUS4-1580835633408
People scramble to buy face masks in a medical supply store a day after the Philippine government confirmed the first novel coronavirus case, in Manila, Philippines, January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez Image Credit: REUTERS

Manila: Lack of awareness about the novel coronavirus poses concerns, not just for medical staff but also workers charged with handling corpses, officials in the Philippines say.

The Philippines has so far confirmed one death from the coronavirus, a Chinese national from Wuhan who visited the country.

But now the country is in a quandary on how to handle and dispose the remains of the victim.

Handling victims

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said no mortuary seems to want to take the job of handling the corpse of the victim, a 44-year-old male.

Duque said further understanding is needed on how to handle victims of the newly discovered virus strain.

“The new virus needs further characterisation,” he said in a television report by CNN Philippines, adding that health professionals have yet to determine if it is safe to handle fatalities of nCoV 2019, even if they are already dead.

No definitive information

In typical illnesses, the virus or organism dies when the host or patient expires, but in the case of nCoV 2019 victims experts have no definitive information so far.

Duque said this was probably the reason why no mortuary seems to want to take on the job on the Chinese nCoV 2019 victim.

“We’ve been struggling. There are many groups who initially said they will cremate, they will bury (the corpse) in a Chinese cemetery, only to find out later on that they changed their minds,” Duque said.

House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano said various agencies of the Philippine government needs to work together to come up with a comprehensive contingency plan to cushion the impact of the 2019 nCoV for all sectors in the Philippines.

“The government must pool its resources to prevent this public health issue from becoming an economic crisis,” he said.