Decision should have come without external pressure – Prof De Silva
By Dilanthi Jayamanne and Buddhika Samaraweera
The cremation or burial of those who succumbed to COVID-19 should have been dealt with, without waiting for external pressure to do so, Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics, Harendra de Silva said.
Prof. de Silva, when contacted for comment, said he was not particularly happy with the fact that external pressure had forced the Government to permit the burial of COVID-19 victims. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, most countries have given the option to cremate or bury the COVID-19 dead.
“Therefore, arriving at this decision almost one year later when the number of COVID-19 deaths had surpassed 450 amongst who were a large number of persons belonging to the Muslim Community is unfortunate. A large number of people were made to grieve and the situation cannot be reversed,” he lamented.
He stated, as a scientific person he had no personal issues with regard to either of the procedures; however it would have been best if this decision to give the bereaved party the option to perform their cultural and religious rites had come from within the country.
“Instead of branding people and grouping them into various categories according to race, religion and political parties everyone should be thought of as humans,” he said.
Commenting on the matter, Public Service United Nurses’ Union (PSUNU) President and Chief Incumbent of the Abhayaramaya in Narahenpita, Ven. Muruthettuwe Ananda Thera said, the decision to allow burial of the bodies of Muslims who died of the COVID-19 virus has been made based on various pressures and a proper decision in that regard should have been taken earlier.
He further said the decision regarding burial should be made by experts and not by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) or any other foreign countries. Ven. Thera also said this issue has led to many problems through expression and different views by the relevant parties from time to time.
However, he said, everyone should listen to the views of specialist doctors or other knowledgeable persons in the field.
Assistant Secretary of the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA), Dr. Naveen D. Zoysa, when contacted for comment on the move by the Health Ministry said, last April his outfit had informed the Health Ministry that the COVID-19 dead could be disposed in two ways, namely, by burial or cremation. “We stressed that the matter should be resolved with recommendations from an expert committee though,” he said.
Also the scientific world would have gained more information with regard to the SARS-CoV- 2 virus which would have helped the Experts Committee in reviewing its decision to make recommendations.
Health Minister, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, on Thursday (25), introducing amendments to the regulations pertaining to cremation of COVID-19 corpses through an Extraordinary Gazette notification, substituted the words “Cremation or burials of corpses.”
Corpses of COVID-19 dead should be buried in accordance with the directions issued by the Director General Health Services, at a cemetery or place approved by the proper authority under the supervision of the authority.