Sunil Ramkhalwhan

Surrich Ramkhalwhan, 56, spent two days searching for the body of his son Sunil Ramkhalwhan, 34, who died of COVID-19 related complications on Tuesday.

Ramkhalwhan, a vendor at the Couva Market, told Guardian Media that Sunil, who lived at Trincity, became ill with the virus and was admitted to the Arima Hospital last Wednesday.

He was then transferred to the Eric Williams Medical Science Complex and then to the Caura Hospital.

The death certificate stated he died with cardiac pulmonary arrest, COVID-19 viral pneumonia and asthma.

“When he was in Caura, he was doing fine. He is my only son, his mother can’t come to terms with his death. He said he was coming out soon. At Caura I heard they had problems with the oxygen supply and he was taken to the Couva Hospital. He reached there around 5 pm and they hooked him up to the oxygen around 8 pm. By then his body was getting black because of the lack of oxygen. They took too long. We were notified of his death on Tuesday around 9 pm. When we went to look for the body we could not find it. Nobody was giving us information,” Ramkhalwhan said.

Ramkhalwhan and his relatives made calls to everyone, including members of Parliament.

On Thursday, a relative of the deceased, who works at the Couva Hospital, assisted the family and found the body. It was tagged and unclaimed. Ramkhalwhan said he was shocked to find out how much funeral agencies were charging to dispose of the bodies of people who died from COVID-19. He said he paid $17,000 to a Couva funeral home.

He said the funeral would take place next week because there is a backlog of bodies awaiting cremation at the crematorium in St James.

Under the current policy, the bodies of people who die from COVID-19 are removed from hospitals by funeral homes and families are not allowed to interact with them.

COVID-19 victims are cremated after funeral services.

Meanwhile, chairman of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation Henry Awong said the regional body would be seeking approval to hire private security to control crowd flow at the market.