Dying in time of COVID-19: swift burial, no vigil for Catholics

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 7 April) – While death often brings grief, dying in time of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has become even bluer for the living.

In South Cotabato, a largely Christian populated province, families and friends of at least nine dead persons under investigation (PUIs) have been deprived the tradition to hold days-long wake for their beloved departed because the deceased were swiftly buried for fear they will spread COVID-19, a health official said.

As of Tuesday morning, two confirmed COVID-19 cases were recorded in South Cotabato, with the latest involving a cockfighting aficionado who attended last month’s six-cock derby at the New Davao Matina Gallera in Davao City.

Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., South Cotabato Integrated Provincial Health Office chief, said the PUIs who perished have no histories of travel to places with confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease.

“The families were not allowed to hold a wake for the deceased who were buried within 12 hours after dying. They were considered highly infectious that’s why they were laid to rest swiftly,” he told reporters.

Only five of the nine dead PUIs were tested but their laboratory results have yet to be released as of Tuesday morning.

Aturdido urged anew residents to follow the measures put in place by the government to avoid the pain of losing their loved ones to COVID-19 and sending them to their final resting place without the usual burial traditions.

As a precautionary measure, Diocese of Marbel Bishop Cerilo Casicas banned funeral masses, among others, to prevent the spread of the virus to the parishioners.

The prelate said, however, that priests will continue to bless the deceased in their homes, with the attendees limited only to immediate family members.

“Our priests will offer mass for the repose of the soul of the deceased in the absence of the congregation,” said Casicas, who also suspended the holding of congregational masses and other major Holy Week activities in response to the government’s call to fight COVID-19.

The new COVID-19 case in South Cotabato province, tagged as PH 3268, is a 56-year-old male from Banga town who is now in stable condition and under strict home quarantine, Aturdido said.

The patient, Aturdido said, joined the cockfighting derby in Davao City last month that drew entries from several parts of Mindanao

Health workers already launched a contact tracing regarding the second COVID-19 positive case in the province, the official said.

Aturdido said that PH 3268’s companion during the derby has completed the quarantine period without symptoms.

“Residents must not panic since South Cotabato does not have a local coronavirus disease transmission at this point,” he said, noting the provincial government “is doing its best to contain the spread of the virus.”

Among others, he cited the dedicated COVID-19 facility opened recently in Surallah town for PUIs with severe symptoms.

Banga Mayor Albert Palencia said that PH 3268 was admitted for coronavirus disease symptoms but was discharged from the hospital after his condition improved.

He is now under strict home quarantine, isolated in a room from the rest of his family, the mayor said in a radio interview.

South Cotabato’s first confirmed COVID-19 case involves a 52-year-old male from T’boli town with a travel history to Manila. Tagged as PH 2173, he is on stable condition and under strict home quarantine.

Based on the 5 p.m. April 6 tally from the Department of Health-Region 12, South Cotabato has six PUIs in admission, 29 discharged and three under home quarantine.

Two others were in home quarantine as persons under monitoring, it added. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)