Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health has issued revised guidelines on disposal of COVID19 dead bodies detailing burial requirements after the government decided to reverse its strict policy of cremating the corpses of COVID-19 victims.
The Ministry of Health issued the Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) in Transportation and Burial of Deaths Infected with COVID – 19 and a circular detailing the “Autopsy Practice and Disposal of a corpse infected with COVID-19” Wednesday.
This circular is to provide standard guidance on autopsy and disposal of persons died due to COVID- 19 or infected with COVID-19, which is diagnosed by PCR or Rapid Antigen Test.
Based on individual request of next-of-kin/ closest relative, the remains of the deceased are allowed for cremation or burial.
According to the circular, cremation or burial should be carried out within 24 hours after issuing the documents pertaining to the release of the corpse by the appointed authority.
The corpse should not be handed over to relatives and should never be washed or embalmed. The corpses should be minimally handled throughout the procedure. It is advised to have the disposition at closest crematorium/ designated cemetery/ designated burial site by the Director General of Health Services (DGHS).
Unidentified or unclaimed corpse need to be disposed at the expenses of the government and the method of disposal should be cremation.
Burial will take place by the facilitation and coordination of the Police/Security personal at an Island earmarked by the government in the presence of two relatives, MOH/ his representative PHI of the area of burial, the Ministry said.
The government has chosen the remote islet of Iranathivu, 8.6 miles (13 kilometers) off the country's northern coast. in the Gulf of Mannar as the burial site for the bodies of COVID victims. However, the decision to bury coronavirus victims on the remote islet has been protested by locals and the minority community.
According to the Ministry of Health SOPs issued today, the vehicle transporting the corpse to “Nachchikuda pier” in Kilinochchi will leave daily at 5.30 a.m. from the designated receiving center nominated by the Director General of the Health Services
Corpse carried by authorized personal will be handed over to respective authority at the “Nachchikuda pier” which is supervised by the area MOH/ representative Public Health Inspector (PHI).
After receiving the corpse, it will be taken to the site of burial by the designated officers with necessary health precautions. Only two relatives are permitted to be present at the burial along with area MOH, representative PHI along with Police and security personal handling the burial process.
Two of the relatives who visited the hospital where death has occurred and identified the deceased, allowed to be present at the Nachchikuda pier in the Kilinochchi district on the following day for witnessing the burial at Iranathivu island.