Minister of Health and Indigenous Medical Services Pavitra Wanniarachchi by Regulations made under Section 2 and 3 of the Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Ordinance (Chapter 222) on 11 April, 2020 made it mandatory that the bodies who succumb to COVID-19 are cremated.
The Regulations state the corpse of a person who has died or is suspected to have died, of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) shall be cremated with provision for the ashes to be handed over to the next of kin, at the request of such next of kin.
Members of the Muslim community have appealed to the President and health authorities to rethink the decsion while the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) has also noted that the Quarantine Act allows the option of both cremation and burial as methods of disposal of bodies while WHO guidelines also say both methods can be allowed for disposing bodies.
The Interim guidance issued on 4 September 2020 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on “ Infection prevention and control for the safe management of a dead body in the context of COVID-19”, says that people who have died from COVID-19 can be buried or cremated according to local standards and family preferences and that national and local regulations may determine how the remains should be handled and disposed.
“The dignity of the dead, their cultural and religious traditions, and their families should be respected and protected throughout. All measures should respect the dignity of the dead including avoiding hasty disposal of the body of a person who has died of COVID-19,” the WHO also states.
Last week in Parliament, the issue figured prominently when Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa questioned why the Government is not following the WHO guidelines on disposal of bodies of COVID-19 victims.
Here are some of the views expressed last Tuesday.