Mercy Angels team works for dignified last rites of people who die due to COVID-19

Bangaluru (Karnataka), June 20 [India] (ANI): COVID-19 has posed several challenges and performing the last rites of patients who succumb to the disease has posed difficulties to families. Volunteers from Mercy Mission, a charitable organisation launched about four months back, have stepped in to give COVID-19 victims a dignified send-off.

Led by Dr Taha Mateen, head of the HBS Hospital in Bengaluru, they have been working relentlessly to perform the last rites of those killed by the infectious disease.

Dr Mateen told ANI that he saw videos and pictures from around the world of piles of dead bodies with no one to take care of them and decided that it should happen to people here.

"We couldn't let the same happen to our people. We wrote to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and got official permission to take bodies and dispose them in a safe and respectful manner," he said.

Mercy angels are now a single point of contact in the area. Whenever there is a COVID death in any hospital, they receive a call from BBMP and the team gets on the job.

Sheikh Imran, a member of the Mercy Angels team, has a three-month-old baby at home.

"My family often tells me to stay home and stay safe. They worry that something will happen to me but I can't run away from my responsibilities as a professional in the medical industry. I have gained a lot of inspiration from sir (Dr Mateen) and he has guided us every step of the way. Our team is very lucky that we have the opportunity to help people in the middle of this pandemic," Imran told ANI.

The team started out with six members and has helped in the last rites of nearly 55 persons. Many more have joined them in the last few months.

Dr Mateen said that death due to COVID-19 is lonely.

"A lot of family members are quarantined and are unable to make it to the cremation. Only five persons are allowed to gather at COVID funeral. When someone dies, there is no Hindu, Muslim or Christian. Our mission is about overcoming all these artificial barriers and bringing everyone together. We respect all religious sentiments," he said.

Veeresh BS, another team member, who has been a medical practitioner for the last 25 years, said it is not known how the virus affects the human body and what the consequences are.

"Our family members are always afraid that something will happen to us but we are not afraid. If you are doing a good thing then there's nothing to be afraid of," he told ANI.

The team has a dedicated ambulance and practices high hygiene standards when dealing with the bodies. They wear PPEs and sanitise their vehicles and equipment every time. (ANI)