Covid19 pandemic has hit the entire world in a grave extent where most of the countries ended up with no option but to seek medical laboratory’s assistance to discover a cure in order to eradicate the coronavirus. However in Sri Lanka, disregarding health advisory directions, certain religious factions attempt to jeopardize the entire covid control mechanism by raising unnecessary concerns regarding the burial of covid19 infected dead bodies. The health authorities should make decisions relying on the country’s geographical nature,whilst taking advice of proper authorities and experts in the subject matter which includes scientists and Geologists, when considering the burial of covid19 infected dead bodies.
WHO has mentioned covid19 dead bodies can be buried or cremated but it has ‘not’ provided any explanation or scientific proof to the question whether “burial of infected bodies will ‘not’ transmit the virus through other means such as ground water..”
It is said to be a proven fact that Covid19 virus can be found on rough surfaces or even on ground through droplets of spit by an infected person. Therefore one can not conclude that ground water shall not transmit the virus and it is said that the virus can stay inactive in one stage and get activated again if it enters the human body.
What is proven through research is that the covid19 virus can be destroyed through heat and accordingly the Director General of Health Services has ordered to cremate all the covid19 dead bodies irrespective of other unnecessary concerns raised by some parties. The Director General of Health Services is designated as the “Proper Authority” in respect of the pandamic situation as Gazetted by Extraordinary Gazette No. 2168/6 dated 25 March 2020.
Furthermore Professor Meththika Withanage has pointed out that burial of covid19 infected bodies can pollute the groundwater in Sri Lanka and the same concerns were raised against a Fundamental Rights matter lodged by certain muslim parties which was later rejected by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka.
Unfortunately it was evident on local media that certain parties attempt to bring allegations against the said Professor who holds PhD in Hydrogeology from University of Copenhagen, Denmark, MSc in Environmental Science, University of Peradeniya and a BSc Degree in Natural Resources from Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka which proves that Professor Meththika is an expert whose views must not be challenged depending on baseless grounds.
Several regulations were passed by the government of Sri Lanka amidst the pandamic, providing suggestions to deal with the situation as follows.
- Gazette Extraordinary No. 2167/18 declaring COVID-19 as a quarantinable disease for the purposes of the existing Quarantine Regulations passed under the Ordinance in 1925 and 1960 making these regulations applicable to procedures taken in relation to COVID-19.
- Gazette Extraordinary No. 2168/6 – Defining the proper authority and a diseased locality.
- Gazette Extraordinary No. 2170/8 – Mandatory cremation of persons who die of COVID-19.
- Gazette Extraordinary No. 2197/25 Restrictions of movement and guidelines to be followed in public places.
Therefore keeping all the criticisms aside it is clear that mandatory cremation is currently a law where breach of the same would result in an unlawful act under the Sri Lankan Law. It is advisable to note that at this juncture Sri Lankans should focus on prevention of transmitting the disease rather than creating unnecessary tension in the society.
Sanjaya Marambe (Attorney at Law)