Scientific and Medical opinion on disposal of dead bodies of Covid 19 victims by
Dr. Rajitha Senaratne MP - Former Minister of Health, Nutrition & Indigenous Medicine
1. Infection prevention and control for the safe management of a dead body in the
context of Covid 19
People who have died from Covid 19 can be buried or cremated.
WHO -Interim guidance – 24/03/2020
2. Practical consideration and recommendation for religious leaders and faith based
communities in the context of Covid 19
Safe burial practices
Faith leaders can help grieving families to ensure that their departed loved ones
receive respectful, appropriate funerals and burial rites, even in the midst of the
Covid 19 pandemic.
1. When acceptable or appropriate according to respective faith traditions,
embalming, burial and cremation should be allowed for the remains of persons
who have died of Covid 19.
2. Religious leaders and local religious communities can work with families to
integrate appropriate religious and cultural practices with burial and funeral steps
that reduce the chances of infection.
3. If the family of the diseased wishes to view the body after it’s removal from the
medical facility where the family member has died, they may be allowed to do so,
In accordance with local physical distancing restriction, with no touching or
kissing of the body and through handwashing before and after viewing.
Validity of these guidance
WHO continues to monitor the situation closely for any changes that may affect
this interim guidance. Should any factors change, WHO will issue a further
update. Otherwise, this interim guidance document will expire 2 years after the
date of publication,
WHO Interim Guidance 07/04/2020
3. Social stigma associated with Covid 19 a guide to preventing and addressing social
The current Covid19 outbreak has provoked social stigma and discriminatory
behaviors against people of certain ethnic backgrounds as well as anyone
perceived to have been in contact with the virus.
What is the impact
Stigma can undermine social cohesion and prompt possible social isolation of
groups, which might contribute to a situation where the virus is more not less,
likely to spread. This can result in more severe health problems and difficulties
controlling a disease outbreak.
Drive people to hide the illness to avoid discrimination.
Prevent people from seeking healthcare immediately.
Discourage them from adopting healthy behaviors.
DOS and DONTS
DONT – attach locations or ethnicity to the disease.
DONT – talk about people “Transmitting Covid 19” “Infecting others” or
“spreading the virus” as it implies intentional transmission and assign blame.
Using criminalizing or dehumanizing terminology creates the impression that
those with the disease have somehow done something wrong or are less human
than the rest of us, feeding stigma, undermining empathy and potentially fueling
under reluctance to seek treatment or attend screening, testing and quarantine.
Make sure you portray different ethnic groups
All materials should show diverse communities being impacted and working
together to prevent the spread of Covid 19. Ensure that typeface, symptoms and
formats are neutral and don’t suggest any particular group.
Journalistic reporting which overly focuses on individual behavior and patients
responsibility for having and “spreading Covid 19” can increase stigma of people
who may have the disease.
UNICEF & WHO – 24/02/2020
4. Statement on Covid 19 : Ethical considerations from a global perspective
On both national and international levels, health and social policies should be
based on solid scientific evidence, taking into account the uncertainties that exist
during pandemic, especially when caused by a novel pathogen, and should be
guided by global ethical considerations.
Political decisions should be based on sound scientific knowledge.
The IBC and COMEST stress that policies which are not based on sound scientific
knowledge and practices are unethical as they work against the effort to build a
common response to the pandemic.
Statement of the UNESCO International Bioethics Committee (IBC) and the
UNESCO World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and