PHIs concerned over public announcement on burial

By Vyshnavy Velrajh

Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) today (3) raised concerns over an announcement being made that burials of COVID victims will be allowed, even before the guidelines were issued.

PHI Association Secretary M. Baalasooriya told Colombo Gazette that they are facing many issues due to the Government making the announcement without a proper system in place.

The PHIs have been pushed into a bad situation, due to government officials announcing that burials will be permitted, without implementing a system to carry out the burials.

Baalasooriya said PHIs directly deal with the public on COVID-related matters, including procedures to be followed upon a COVID-related death.

However, due to the guidelines on burial not being issued as yet, the PHI officers are unable to advise the public on the proper procedure to be followed, especially in connection to Muslim families who wish to undertake burials.

This uncertain situation and lack of information on burials has pitted the PHI officers against the public requesting for burials, causing unnecessary tensions, he said.

The PHI Association Secretary said as the Government has already announced that burials will be permitted, the PHI officers are in a situation where they have to inform the public that it is pending at present due to guidelines yet to be issued on the procedure.

Baalasooriya further pointed out that the protest staged by residents of Iranaitivu Island, which was selected as a burial ground, will cause further tensions, as the objection will lead to a further delay in conducting burials.

The residents of Iranaitivu have opposed the Government’s decision proposing the island as a burial ground for COVID victims.

Baalasooriya said these factors will continue to burden the PHI officers and cause more issues between them and the public over the burial of COVID victims, especially those from Muslim families.

He said, however, if health authorities issue the guidelines on burials as soon as possible, it might lessen the issues faced at present.

Cabinet Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (2) said the guidelines on burials would be issued during the day.

However, Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena announced today that the guidelines will be issued today.

The burial of COVID victims in Sri Lanka has been a long-standing issue in the country since the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

Many including the Opposition, civil society, and mainly the Muslim community have raised serious concerns over the cremation of the remains of Muslim COVID victims, which they claim is against their religious beliefs. (Colombo Gazette)