MMDA gears up measures in handling COVID-19 fatalities

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 17) — The Metro Manila Development Authority is stepping up its efforts as lead agency, proposing solutions to ward off issues concerning COVID-19 related deaths.

In a televised briefing on Friday, MMDA Spokesperson Assistant Secretary Celine Pialago shared the plans of the coordinating agency in handling remains of patients who have died of the coronavirus infection.

"Isa po diyan [sa issues] 'yung delay sa mga death certificates. DOH will instruct the hospitals to fast track 'yung pag-prprocess po ng death certificates. While waiting sa official certificates, ang simpleng certification po issued by the authorized representative of the hospital ay maaari na munang gamitin," Pialago said.

[Translation: One of the issues is the delay on the issuance of death certificates. DOH will instruct the hospitals to fast track the processing of the death certificates. While waiting for the official certificates, (the concerned) may use a simple certification issued by the authorized representative of the hospital.]

The Department of Health has yet to verify whether it can allow the issuance of provisional death certificates, the MMDA noted.

On the shortage of supply of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and body bags, Pialago pointed out that both public and private hospitals will be recipients of donated supplies. She said there are currently 7,000 available body bags for COVID-19 remains, according to the DOH.

"Ang kailangan lang po, mag-request nang formal, at ito ho ay dapat manggaling sa concerned hospital," Pialago said.

[Translation: A formal request has to be made, and it should come from the concerned hospital.]

The MMDA said it has also come up with the "Cremate Now, Pay Later" plan, together with the Health Department, the Trade Department, and the Office of Civil Defense.

However, the plan will only benefit COVID-19 patients who are "indigents" or members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

Pialago said crematory services have set up a fixed rate of P25,000; but the concerned can expect financial assistance from the cluster offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, if not from the officials of local government units.

"Isa rin po sa recommendation kahapon ng mga funeral services ay hikayatin 'yung mga LGUs na buksan 'yung public cemeteries [para makapaglibing] po tayo ng mga COVID-19 fatalities," she stated.

[Translation: It was also recommended by (representatives of) funeral services yesterday that we urge the LGUs to open public cemeteries, so we can bury COVID-19 remains.]

"Borderless accommodation" will also be implemented in crematoriums, the MMDA said.

Crematoriums, public and private, will have to accept all COVID-19 remains, regardless of the patient's residence.

As for the urns of patients who have succumbed to the viral illness, Pialago said they are still in talks with the concerned agencies. She specified that there may be a certain classification for crematory services, funeral parlors, as well as their suppliers, so they can be issued travel passes.

Meanwhile, the DOH has instructed the agencies involved to put external tags on COVID-19 remains to prevent the need to reopen body bags, the MMDA said.

It also said they will coordinate with manufacturers to ensure the stable supply of disinfectants.

"Just in case [naman] po mag-increase ang bilang ng mga COVID-19 fatalities, freezer vans po can be used, in case po 'yung mga morgue natin ay mapuno," Pialago said.

[Translation: Just in case the number of COVID-19 fatalities spikes, and our morgues reach its full capacity, freezer vans can be used.]

The MMDA earlier announced that it will serve as the coordinating agency of local government units, hospitals, and  concerned agencies to avoid problems with burial and cremation procedures for remains of COVID-19 fatalities.

In the Philippines, a total of 5,660 cases of the coronavirus disease have been recorded, including 362 deaths and 435 recoveries.