Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa says that permission will be granted for the burial of COVID-19 victims.
The Premier mentioned this in response to a question raised by Parliamentarian S.M. Marikkar during the parliamentary session today (February 10).
Quoting State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control Sudarshini Fernandopulle, the parliamentarian said COVID-19 does not transmit through water and requested the Prime Minister to grant permission to bury victims of novel coronavirus.
In April last year, the Sri Lankan government amended a law to make cremation compulsory for those who fall victim to the novel coronavirus with the intention of preventing any potential threat.
The Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Ordinance (Chapter 222) was accordingly amended by an
extraordinary gazette notification issued by Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi.
The decision sparked heated debate locally and internationally, as concerns were raised stressing that it is against the dictates of Muslim community’s faith.
Former Minister and Leader of All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) Rishad Bathiudeen, former MPs Seyed Ameer Ali, Abdullah Mohamed Mahroof, and Hussein Ahamed Bhaila meanwhile petitioned against the government’s decision, arguing that there is no scientific evidence to support the conclusion that cremation is safer than burial to prevent the infection from the coronavirus.
The topic was also brought to the attention of the Cabinet of Ministers on several occasions.
However, the Cabinet decided to refer the matter back to the experts’ committee to look into the possibility of burying Covid-19 victims in a remote, dry area.
Later in November, UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Ms Hanaa Singer wrote to PM Mahinda Rajapaksa, reiterating the concerns of the United Nations with the existing Health Ministry guidelines, which stipulate cremation as the only method for the disposal of bodies suspected of COVID-19 infection.
In her letter, Singer had noted that the common assumption that people who died of a communicable disease should be cremated to prevent spread is not supported by evidence.