The family members of a 25-year-old man had to cart his body to the cremation ground after neighbours allegedly refused to lend their shoulders owing to the fear of contracting Covid-19 infection. The family has alleged that police, too, did not help. The incident has been reported in Mandpokhari village of Konark tehsil in Odisha’s Puri district. Vichitra Rout (25) died on Wednesday night, but his last rites were performed at 1 pm Thursday after the family was able to arrange PPE suits and a cycle cart to take the body from his home to the cremation ground, about a kilometre away.
Rout worked as a tractor driver on farms and was the sole breadwinner of the family. His mother was diagnosed with cancer a year ago and is under treatment.
According to family members, Rout was running a high fever for the last four days and a doctor diagnosed him with typhoid and also advised a Covid test. “Initial blood reports stated that he suffered from typhoid. The doctor advised that he must undergo a Covid test since he showed symptoms similar to that of a Covid infection. We went to the Puri government hospital to get him tested, but they said the OPD was shut and referred us to Bhubaneswar,” said Rout’s cousin Saroj Sikari. Before the family could arrange a vehicle to go to Bhubaneswar, Rout died. Fellow villagers, who suspected that he had died of Covid-19, refused to help in his last rites, the family alleged.
“We informed the police station but they said that since Covid test was not done, we can perform the rites. Panchayat members too refused to help. We needed someone to lend their shoulders, but no one came forward,” Sikari said.
The family then approached Konark Notified Area Council (NAC) officials, who gave them PPE kits and a cycle cart.
“The doctor the patient had consulted told us that he died due to typhoid and prolonged fever. Even the family was a little hesitant, but we provided them with PPE kits since no other person from the village came forward. The patient died before the Covid test so we do not know if he was infected,” said M Srinivas, executive officer of the NAC.
Two of Rout’s cousins, his brother-in-law and his maternal uncle wore PPEs, masks and gloves and carried his body, wrapped in plastic, to the cremation ground on the cycle cart. The body was cremated in a traditional manner.
As per guidelines, bodies of suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 must be placed in a leak-proof plastic bag and the exterior surface of the bag has to be decontaminated with 1 per cent hydrochloride before cremation or burial. Srinivas said that since Rout was not tested, specific protocols were not followed. The district collector remained unavailable for comments.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines