The Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said on Saturday that people who have corpses in public mortuaries in the state have two weeks to bury them, after which he said the state would do mass burial for all unclaimed corpses.
The governor lamented that even though funeral was not on the list of activities exempted from the lockdown restrictions, mortuaries in the state had become congested and the state needed to act.
He explained that the inability of many families to bury the corpses of their loved ones was due to Lent and the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.
The governor noted however that deaths as a result of coronavirus are exempted. The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had said that corpses of people who died of COVID-19 would not be released to families.
Speaking at a media briefing at the Government House, Sanwo-Olu also said he had approved the release of 209 inmates from prisons in the state, adding that government was doing all it could to contain the spread of the virus in the state.
As of Saturday, out of the 1,182 cases in the country, Lagos has 689, out of which 116 had recovered and 20 had died.
The governor said, “I’m constrained to make this appeal to all Lagosians who have the corpses of their loved ones in the mortuaries to please go ahead and schedule the funerals.
“Due to the inability to hold funerals, occasioned by the restriction on movement, the mortuaries in Lagos State are now full and in urgent need of decongestion. Let me make it clear at this point that these are not COVID-19 deaths.
“If we are unable to see a decongestion of the mortuaries across the state in the next two weeks, the Lagos State Government will be compelled to carry out mass burial to achieve this. We do not want to be forced to do this, which is why we are asking for your cooperation in this regard.”
The governor pointed out that families were free to hold or attend funeral service but such burials could only be done in Lagos due to the interstate lockdown imposed by governors.
He, however, stressed that the attendees must comply with safety requirements. “The total number of persons at the funeral, including officiating religious leaders, must not exceed 20; physical distancing must be maintained; all attendees/mourners must use (face) masks and ensure they wash their hands before and after the ceremony,” he said.
He added that there must be no receptions or parties to accompany the funerals.
Sanwo-Olu also said he had approved the release of 209 inmates remanded in various correctional centres in the state.
He said the inmates released from prisons were persons above 60 years; those with less than six months to complete their sentences; those who have served 75 per cent of their sentences; those serving terms for misdemeanours and minor offences; and those with physical and mental health issues. “I have signed the order for their release,” the governor said.
The governor also said the use of face masks had become mandatory, adding that non-compliance would attract punishment.
He said millions of face masks were being produced to be distributed free of charge across the state. “I also want to urge everyone to please leave the N95 masks for the use of medical workers who need them most,” he added.