by Arlana Shikongo and Victoria Wolf

NAMIBIANS who have succumbed to the novel coronavirus may be cremated by their next of kin.

Minister of health and social services Kalumbi Shangula yesterday said this is part of the standard operating procedure for Covid-19-related deaths.

All deaths and funerals related to Covid-19 will be handled by the government with psychosocial support to the family of the deceased, he said.

Shangula’s response addressed claims of preferential treatment shown to founding president Sam Nujoma’s sister, Sofia Asino, who died of Covid-19 on Friday.

Shangula, who confirmed Asino’s death, said her body had been cremated and can therefore be transported for burial without posing a public health risk.

“The body of Ms Asino was cremated within 48 hours. It is no longer a risk for Covid-19 infection and [the remains] can safely be transported to a burial site which the family chooses,” Shangula said yesterday.

The minister added: “This is the third body [of a Covid-19-related death] to be cremated, but nobody asked questions.”

In the event that the family of the deceased chooses not to cremate the body, a burial must take place within 72 hours of the death, according to the World Health Organisation’s guidelines.

Furthermore, the burial of a non-cremated body must take place in the area where the person died, the minister said.

Asino’s son, Matti Asino, yesterday said the family intends to follow all regulations in the burial of his mother.

“This is a private matter, and it is under unusual circumstances. We would appreciate it if the public can leave us to mourn our mother,” he said.

Prior to speaking to The Namibian, Matti told other news publications the family intended to delay the burial until after the nationwide lockdown.

Asino is from Okahao in the Omusati region, which is where the family intends to bury her.

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