Chennai: Health officials and police officers were in a fix in Chennai on Monday after local residents, ignoring prohibitory orders, raised objections near the Ambattur crematorium and protested the cremation of a doctor, who was admitted with COVID-19 symptoms and died at a private hospital on Sunday night.

The officials were forced to take away the body due to protests by the locals. None of the family members of the deceased was  present since they are also under quarantine. Corporation officials said the body was later cremated at an undisclosed location. 

According to sources, the 56-year-old orthopaedic surgeon from Andhra Pradesh tested positive at Nellore. He was later shifted to a private hospital in Chennai. “He contracted the infection from one of his patients and died on Monday,” a hospital source said.

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For hours, health workers had kept the body in a vehicle and were persuading the agitators to allow the cremation. The local residents, who suspected that the doctor had died of COVID-19, expressed apprehension that the cremation of the body could result in the spread of novel coronavirus in the area, police sources said.

Meanwhile, health secretary Beela Rajesh said, “Since he belongs to Andhra Pradesh, his death will be counted there. There was some coordination gap between the officials. Later it was sorted out. We have already issued guidelines on how to dispose bodies to all private hospitals.”

According to a report on The New Indian Express, corporation officials said that the hospital staff were in the process of preparing the body for cremation when around 40 locals gathered. “We tried to make them understand that cremation is being done as per protocol and won’t pose any risk, but they refused to listen,” said an official.