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Iraqi Militia drops guns to dig graves for COVID-19 victims

Iraqi Militia drops guns to dig graves for COVID-19 victims

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Militiamen warring against Islamic State in Najaf, Iraq are burying coronavirus victims, following the Muslim and Christian burial rituals. 

Paramedic Sarmad Ibrahim, who previously treated fellow Shi’ite Muslim militiamen fighting the Islamic State, claimed, “ So far, we’re coping… But if we start receiving more bodies we might not be able to bury according to religious rules.

Ibrahim and his comrades from the Imam Ali Combat Brigade work at a new cemetery in the southern Shi’ite holy city of Najaf, Iraq’s only graveyard established for those who have succumbed to COVID-19.

What are the SOPs involved?

While bodies routinely arrive at night, the volunteers gear up in full protective suits. They then wash and wrap the corpses in black burial shrouds before placing them back in the coffins, which they carry to the graves under the headlights of their vehicles. 

However, the team struggles to expand beyond its dozen or so members. Some medics say suspected exposure to the virus has alienated them from their families and kin and it is no different for volunteers either, even though there is no evidence COVID-19 spreads via corpses.

Over 200 people have died since the novel coronavirus outbreak in Iraq in February with the volunteers receiving between two to four corpses daily. According to the local health ministry’s figures, the nation’s confirmed coronavirus infections have doubled from approximately 3,000 to over 6,000 during the time span over almost 2 weeks.

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