To check this claim, of overwhelming global support for permitting burial of Covid-19 victims, FactCheck consulted the latest available guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the United Nations, Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States, and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDPC), currently available on their websites.
The WHO guidance dated September 2020 on “Infection prevention and control for the safe management of a dead body in the context of COVID-19” lists at least 50 safety measures to be followed in the handling of a dead body, prior to burial or cremation. All these measures apply to both burial and cremation. None of the measures anticipates any risk of the virus spreading from the dead body after burial has taken place.
The “key considerations” section of this WHO document specifically dismisses concerns about burial, stating: “There is a common assumption that people who died of a communicable disease should be cremated to prevent spread of that disease; however, there is a lack of evidence to support this.” This exact view is taken by the CDC stating “COVID-19 does not need to affect whether the funeral takes place through burial or cremation”; and the ECDPC stating “Decedents with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 can be buried or cremated.”
The view taken by the above institutions reflects the overwhelming global scientific consensus. FactCheck has hitherto not found any other country in the world that prohibits burials for dead bodies with COVID-19.
Therefore, we classify the College of Community Physicians’ statement as TRUE.
A local panel of experts, appointed by the Ministry of Health and chaired by Senior Professor in Microbiology Jennifer Perera, is reported to have submitted a report to the ministry also aligning with this evidence; stating that: “the expert committee has revised the recommendations on disposal of bodies to include both cremation and burial, while adhering to the specified safety precautions” and “there also has been no evidence of transmission through water contamination from burial by SARS or influenza.”
*FactCheck’s verdict is based on the most recent information that is publicly accessible. As with every fact check, if new information becomes available, FactCheck will revisit the assessment.
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