A police NOC is mandatory for taking a body from one district to another. (Representational Photo)
Mumbai police Wednesday had to intervene to ensure that a 64-year-old woman, who succumbed to novel coronavirus late Tuesday, was laid to rest following the laid down protocols for the burial of patients infected by the virus.
The incident came to light when the woman's family members visited Deonar police station for obtaining a no-objection certificate for the burial Wednesday. On realising that the woman succumbed to the infection, Deonar police sent 25 people, who had either come in close contact with the woman or the body, for the COVID-19 test. The police are now looking for her son-in-law, who had also come in contact with the woman but has been untraceable since her death.
A police NOC is mandatory for taking a body from one district to another. The woman had died in a hospital in Navi Mumbai and she had to be brought to Deonar for burial.
On Tuesday night, the woman died after she suffered a heart attack and acute respiratory distress syndrome. She had tested positive for novel coronavirus earlier and was the fourth person to die from infection in Maharashtra.
The senior citizen lived in a chawl in a semi-slum area of Deonar. Earlier this week, when she suffered breathlessness and fever, her family rushed her to a private hospital in Chembur. The doctor there had referred her to Mumbai's Kasturba Hospital for COVID-19 testing, but the family took her to DY Patil Hospital in Navi Mumbai instead. When her condition deteriorated, she was referred to Navi Mumbai Municipal Hospital.
An officer from Deonar police station said, "After the woman died, a few of her family members were waiting at the hospital to complete the formalities. Meanwhile, they had sent a picture of her death certificate on WhatsApp to a maulana, who along with two others, reached Deonar police station for the NOC, so that they could get done with the procedure at the earliest and bury her body."
Police, however, insisted for the original death certificate — the death certificate issued by the NMMC hospital stated that she had died under natural circumstances. A police constable, responsible for issuing the NOC, later found that the woman's son-in-law had flown in from Dubai and had met her before he flew to Bengaluru. When police asked them if the woman had undergone a COVID-19 test, they reportedly said a sample had been sent to Kasturba Hospital.
"The family told us that the result of the test was awaited. We then contacted the authorities at Kasturba Hospital, who confirmed that the woman died due to COVID-19," said an officer from Deonar police station.
Police later put the body in a disinfected plastic bag which was then buried at Deonar cemetery Wednesday. Twenty-five people who had come in contact with the woman when she was alive and after her death, have been sent for COVID-19 test, police added.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Shashi Meena (zone VI) said, "We have narrowed down on the people who came in close contact with her and have sent them for testing and even asked them to quarantine themselves." He added that they are currently looking for the woman's son-in-law. "We are trying to ascertain whether he was aware that he is infected with COVID-19. If he has been meeting people despite knowing, a case shall be registered against him," Meena added.
Dr Balasaheb Sonawane, a medical officer from Navi Mumbai, said, "The woman's death certificate was issued before we could get our hands on the (COVID-19 test) report."
Police stations across Mumbai have now been asked not to issue no-objection certificates without verifying if the deceased was infected with the virus.