Sri Lanka has ended a ban on the burial of COVID-19 victims after facing severe international criticism.
Sri Lanka banned the burial of pandemic victims last March in a controversial move, causing an international cry about the matter as Muslims and Christians bury their dead.
Sri Lanka allowed the burial of the COVID-19 victims through a government notification issued on Thursday night.
The decision comes just a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan made a state visit to Colombo.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told the parliament earlier this month that his government would allow the bodies of the victims of the virus to be buried, a development that Khan welcomed in his official tweet.
In March last year, the Ministry of Health announced that the burial of coronavirus victims could contribute to the spread of the virus. It was said that the bodies of the dead, irrespective of their religion, would then be cremated.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) stressed that cremation is a “matter of cultural choice.”
“It is a common myth that persons who have died of a communicable disease should be cremated, but this is not true,” it added.
Non-governmental organizations and minority groups in Sri Lanka had filed petitions with the Supreme Court, pleading to stop the cremation of Muslim bodies. However, the court dismissed all such petitions.
After the latest decision, Khan said on Twitter: “I thank the Sri Lankan leadership and welcome the Sri Lankan govt's official notification allowing the burial option for those dying of COVID-19.”
His foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi added: “Pakistan is grateful to the leadership of Sri Lanka for allowing the option of burial for victims of COVID-19. Indeed, it is these very principles of mutual understanding, respect, and humanity that bring relationships to thrive and prosper.”
Khan had led a 50-member delegation to Colombo on Tuesday where they held a wide range of bilateral discussions to further improve ties.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Sri Lanka has reported 81,933 coronavirus cases, including 459 deaths, according to data compiled by the US-based Johns Hopkins University.