Despite Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday claiming in Parliament that burial of COVID-19 victims would be permitted, senior Health and government officials were unaware till late last evening of any such decision which would change an existing gazette notification, which made cremation mandatory for all Coronavirus victims.
Prime Minister Rajapaksa, in Parliament yesterday in a vague statement said burials would be permitted when SJB MP S. M. Marikkar questioned as to whether cremations had to continue after State Minister Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle said the previous day that the virus could not spread through water.
However, when contacted, a senior Health Ministry official said that up to last evening, they had received no instructions from the Director General of Health or the Health Secretary to reverse the cremation only policy and even Ministry officials were made aware of this new decision only through Parliament.
A senior government official said that in recent days there had been no discussions held to discuss the burial issue and this matter came to light once again only after Dr. Fernandopulle commented the previous day saying that the virus could not spread through water. Even after her statement, the Expert Committee and Health officials had not gathered to discuss the matter and it was only mentioned in Parliament by the Prime Minister yesterday.
The official said for burials to be permitted the Director General of Health Services had to issue a gazette notification, reversing the earlier decision. Several attempts to contact the Director General of Health services last evening failed.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is expected to arrive in the country soon on an official visit, in a statement on his twitter account last night said he welcomed Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s assurance given in Parliament, which would allow Muslims to bury those who died of the virus. (JAMILA HUSAIN)