Sri Lanka will allow the burial of COVID-19 victims, the country’s premier said on Wednesday, following months of outcry over a ban.
In response to a question raised by lawmaker S M Marikkar, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said in parliament the bodies of virus victims will be allowed to be buried, according to the ColomboPage news website.
In March last year, the Health Ministry had said that the burial of the coronavirus victims could lead to the virus spread. It said the bodies of the deceased, irrespective of their religion, would therefore be cremated.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) stressed that cremation is a “matter of cultural choice.”
“It is a common myth that persons who have died of a communicable disease should be cremated, but this is not true,” it added.
Non-governmental organizations and minority groups in Sri Lanka filed petitions with the Supreme Court, pleading to stop the cremation of Muslim bodies. However, the court dismissed all such petitions.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who will be visiting Sri Lanka later this month, welcomed the lifting of the ban that came ahead of a UN Human Rights Council session starting as of Feb. 15.
“We welcome Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa’s assurance given in Sri Lankan Parliament today allowing Muslims to bury those who died from COVID-19,” Khan said on Twitter.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Sri Lanka has reported 71,211 coronavirus cases, including 370 deaths and 65,053 recoveries, according to data compiled by the US-based Johns Hopkins University.
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