September 26, 2022
One Chinese city has imposed a requirement that even the dead be tested for COVID-19, under certain conditions. Officials in Shenzhen’s Bureau of Civil Affairs recently posted the rules for...

One Chinese city has imposed a requirement that even the dead be tested for COVID-19, under certain conditions.

Officials in Shenzhen’s Bureau of Civil Affairs recently posted the rules for cremations.

Those seeking a cremation are “required to provide proof of nucleic acid testing of the deceased, in addition to the death certificate and the notice of transporting of remains, if the deceased is from closed-off management areas, restrictive control areas and prevention areas,” the site said, referring to areas in or near places where COVID-19 has been reported, according to the South China Morning Post.

Nucleic acid testing is a method of detecting the COVID-19 virus through the presence of genetic material.

A “close-contact” relative’s test report can be used if no test for the dead person exists, Shenzhen’s sole funeral home said.

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A Chinese media outlet reported it was told by a staff member that “at the moment Shenzhen has no such [control] areas, so the policy can be ignored.”

A staff member at the funeral home’s hotline told Sixth Tone, an English-language magazine based in Shanghai, that the rule is only in effect for times when there are local outbreaks. However, the magazine reported, family members of the deceased who are involved in on-site funeral preparations must produce a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous 48 hours.

Shenzhen, in the southern province of Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong, has not reported new cases of COVID-19 since May 10.

The South China Morning Post, citing the Tianmu News, also reported that a staff member had said the policy had been in place since last year, but the funeral home had heretofore been flexible in interpreting the law.

“It is generally necessary to have proof of nucleic acid testing within 24 hours [of death]. If not, the epidemic prevention sites in Shenzhen can also conduct emergency testing and the results will be available in one or two hours. Test results from family members will also do in cases where it is not possible to produce such a report for the deceased,” said the staff member – whose name was not given.

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During the initial days of the pandemic in China, the bodies of COVID-19 victims were disinfected and then put in sealed bags before being cremated.

Contrary to traditional Chinese customs, no funeral service in the presence of the body was allowed during portions of the pandemic when fears of the continued spread of the disease were at their highest.

The policy drew comments on the Chinese social media site Weibo.

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“I’m not sure if I would have to wear a mask for the rest of my life … and show my health code when I’m about to be cremated,” one poster said, according to Sixth Tone.

In January, South Korea changed its pandemic-era guidelines to allow pre-cremation funerals. Prior to that time, cremation had come first.