“I have my sister in bed, dead, I don’t know what to do,” Franzese said in a Facebook video over the weekend, pleading for help. “I cannot give her the honor she deserves because the institutions have abandoned me. I contacted everyone, but nobody was able to give me an answer.”
In Italy, which has the second-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, 827 deaths have been attributed to covid-19. The government has taken extraordinary measures to contain the pandemic, restricting the movements of nearly 16 million people as the entire country has gone on lockdown.
But attempts to slow the spread of the disease have led to unintended consequences, including several instances where funeral homes reportedly refused to collect the bodies of those infected with the virus.
According to Al Jazeera, Teresa Franzese, 47, suffered from epilepsy but was healthy up until last week, when she began showing symptoms of the coronavirus. She died on Saturday evening, in her Naples home.
In videos posted to Facebook the following afternoon, Luca Franzese said his sister had been tested for the virus only after her death. The results came back positive, and he and several other relatives were placed under quarantine. That left a dilemma: What to do with Teresa’s body?
After various authorities failed to come up with an answer, Franzese said, the city of Naples finally referred him to a funeral home. But the funeral home refused, telling him it wasn’t equipped to deal with the situation.
“It was the first case in Italy in which a person with the virus dies at home, so there was some confusion on what to do,” Francesco Emilio Borrelli, a local councilor who also serves as a member of Campania’s Regional Health Commission, told Al Jazeera.
On Sunday evening, Franzese posted an emotional appeal to his followers on Facebook, urging them to take the virus seriously as he stood in the same room where his sister lay dead in the background.
“We are ruined,” he said. “Italy has abandoned us."
The video, which had been viewed about 9.5 million times by Thursday, got the attention that Franzese was seeking. On Monday morning, a local funeral home finally agreed to take Teresa’s body, sending a crew outfitted in masks, goggles and hazmat suits to collect her corpse.
No family members were able to attend the funeral. Pasquale Pernice, one of the workers at Aprea Funeral Home, told Al Jazeera the experience had been “surreal.”
Efi Campania, the association representing funeral home directors in the area, told local reporters that the delay in collecting Teresa’s body was due to administrative hurdles, not any reluctance on their part. “Our heartfelt and sincere condolences to the Franzese family,” the group said in a statement.
But the same situation appears to have played out elsewhere. The Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata news agency reported Wednesday that prosecutors in the province of Savona were opening a probe into an incident where funeral homes refused to transport the body of an elderly woman who died on Feb. 29 after contracting coronavirus.
Yet another disturbing scenario played out this week when a woman was quarantined alongside the body of her dead husband. Giancarlo Canepa, the mayor of Borghetto Santo Spirito in northern Italy, told CNN that the man died at 2 a.m. Monday, but that nobody would be allowed to remove his body until Wednesday morning.
“Unfortunately, we have a security protocol we must follow,” Canepa said.
The man, who has not been publicly identified, tested positive for coronavirus before he died, but refused to be taken to the hospital, Canepa told CNN. After he passed away, quarantine measures prevented anyone from entering the house and collecting his body.
The decision prompted an uproar, with neighbors telling television news station IVG.it that it was painful to know that the grieving widow was alone with her deceased husband’s body. The woman had been standing on her balcony and crying for help, they said, and the man’s relatives were desperately pleading for someone to interfere.
“We are treated worse than garbage,” one of the man’s family members told IVG.it.
After telling CNN on Tuesday that there was nothing they could do, authorities removed the man’s body that same morning. IVG.it reported officials had been waiting for further testing to be completed. But given the circumstances, officials agreed that the corpse should be transferred to a morgue instead.