Repatriation of dead COVID-19 victims from Singapore possible

by BERNAMA / pic by BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE – On Thursday, a Malaysian man was among the 16 more people who died from complications due to COVID-19 infection in Singapore.

With Malaysia-Singapore cross border travel restricted except for the ferrying of goods, and the fact that the bodies of COVID-19 victims cannot be embalmed, then could the victim’s remains be repatriated to Malaysia?

Yes. It is possible. There are a set of procedures in handling the remains of foreigners who had succumbed to COVID-19 in Singapore.

According to the republic’s National Environment Agency (NEA), families or next-of-kin are advised to cremate the bodies and transport the cremated ashes back to their home countries.

“No special permit is required for the repatriation of cremated ashes,” the agency’s spokesperson said in an email reply to BERNAMA.

As for repatriating a deceased body out of Singapore, NEA noted that a Coffin (Export) Permit issued by its Port Health Office is required.

“Approval from the receiving country for the import of the body is also required,” said NEA, a statutory board formed under the republic’s Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment.

“As embalming of the body with COVID-19 infection is not permitted, the next-of-kin will need to utilise other means of preservation, approved by both the receiving country, as well as the airline or carrier,” NEA pointed out further.

NEA is an agency that provides cremation, burial, columbarium, and ash scattering services here.

Then how about Muslims whose remains need to be buried?

An undertaker operations manager at Jasa Budi Muslim Casket and Marble Contractor, Jameela Bee Md Ismail shared to BERNAMA that her company has experience handling a foreign Muslim deceased case with COVID-19 infection.

“It involved a Bangladesh citizen. At that time there were no airlines available to transport the remains, thus, we had to bury it here,” she said, noting that approval must be first granted by the relevant parties that include the next-of-kin and the respective foreign missions.

Jameela Bee added that Muslim burials cost more for COVID-19-related deaths for Singaporeans, what more for foreigners.

She said prices for a COVID-19 burial for locals are between $2,000 and $5,000 depending on the manpower needed while normal Muslim burials usually cost around $1,500 to $1,600.

Meanwhile, a funeral director at The Life Celebrant, Dennis Wong, said his company has handled a few COVID-19 cases in the last months but did not involve the repatriation of the remains.

“As far as the current protocols, embalming is not allowed for an infectious body,” he said, adding that he was also hoping to know the protocols of handling the remains of COVID-19 patients before deporting them out of Singapore.