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Thursday December 8th, 2022

Expert committee says burial of Covid 19 dead can take place with precautions

CORONAVIRUS BURIAL: Employees of the Bouvy funeral house wear face masks as a protective measure while they burry a person who died of the COVID-19 at the cemetery of Kraainem on April 8, 2020 in Brussels.

ECONOMYNEXT – The expert committee advising the government on the disposal of the remains of those who die of the Covid 19 virus is revising its stand and recommending that burial be permitted under strict conditions.

The Health Ministry which received the report whose primary author is Senior Professor Jennifer Perera is studying the new recommendations, informed sources said.

The four-page report gives strict guidelines for both processes, limiting the number of family members who are permitted to participate in funerals and strict guidelines for the location and nature of burial sites.

The report has been authenticated by experts for EconomyNext. The only flaw in the document being circulated on social media is the list of experts that is attached to the end of the report is of the older expert committee and one of the names that appear is incorrect.

The report says the committee which still believes cremation is the “most appropriate form of disposal of the body” but revises its stand to disallow burials while adhering to specific guidelines based on new knowledge.

The committee report follows the reasoning presented by the College of Community Physicians of Sri Lanka (CCPSL) in a scientific position paper published on its website yesterday January 1, in which it pointed out that in thousands of research papers published internationally there was no evidence of the transmission of the infection from a cadaver.

This brings the two most important Colleges of Experts in the fields on to the same page.

Sri Lanka is one of only two countries of the world enforcing compulsory cremation which goes against the religious beliefs of adherents of the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All other countries allow cremation or burial depending on the preferences of the family concerned.

Images of the unsigned report were tweeted by Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) last night and have now gone viral. JDS is a group of journalists exiled from Sri Lanka due to previous violence against them.

Right-Wing groups oppose burial

Pro-government academics and Right-wing groups have argued that Muslims may take the bodies of Covid dead and “weaponise” them and infect the general population. This was their justification to cremate all the cadavers of Covid dead.

Burying the bodies, they argued would contaminate the groundwater and further spread the disease.

As a result, many Muslim families have not claimed their dead and the government has resorted to storing the remains in freezer containers which have been paid for by the Muslim community.

In Thursday’s report, the panel said that the SARS-CoV-2 virus infection is not a water-borne disease. “Contamination of water by the residual virus in a corpse leading into the water table through layers of soil to reach levels of the infectious dose is very remote as any residual infection virus continues to die. Furthermore, any residual infectious virus that reached the water table gets diluted in the large volume of water.”

It added that because of that factor the “amount of virus in water is insufficient to lead to an infection either by ingestion, contact with mucus membranes or through contaminated hands as the minimal infectious dose of the virus is quite high. For the same reasons, there also has been no evidence of transmission through water contamination from burial by SARS or influenza. However, water contamination could be avoided to a large extent by wrapping the body using virus impervious material such as the use of non-biodegradable body bags.”

The recommendations of the panel are:

– The dignity of the dead and their families should be respected and protected as far as possible throughout the process used for the disposal of the body.

– Only designated healthcare personnel should handle the corpses.

– The body should not be handed over to the relatives for cremation or burial.

-Ensure all those who interact with the body (the healthcare and mortuary staff) apply standard infection prevention and control (IPC) precautions. Continuous and adequate hand hygiene supplies, PPE, cleaning and disinfection supplies should be made available.

-The bodies for cremation or burial should not be embalmed.

-The cremation or burial should be carried out within 24 hours, once the order for disposal of the body is given.

-The body should be laid inside a double-layered body bag, prior to placing in the coffin. The body bags should be of 300 um thickness, padded with absorbent material, leak-proof and non-biodegradable.

– Viewing of the body will be permitted only within the healthcare facility/mortuary.

– If the family wishes to view the body, open/unzip the body bag and allow them to view the body at a one-meter distance wearing a mask and keeping a distance of one meter from each other. Touching the body or the belongings of the dead person is not permitted. The body should not be removed from the body bag for viewing.

– Only 4 persons from the family will be allowed to view the body. Two persons at a time should be allowed to view the body and a maximum period of 5 min/per two persons should be allowed for viewing the body under supervision. A total period of 10 min is allowed for viewing the body.

– When the body is transported to a crematorium/burial site by health authorities, a maximum of 4 persons from the family could be permitted to accompany the body in a separate mode of transport.

– The crematorium/burial site designated by the healthcare authorities should be used for disposal of the body.

-The coffin shall not be opened for any reason at the crematorium or the burial site.

– Allow 10 minutes for any religious activity under supervision at the crematorium/burial site prior to cremating/burying while observing social distancing and standard precautions. Only one religious dignitary and 4 persons from the family will be permitted to be present during the religious activity.

– The bottom of the grave should be 1.5 m from the ground surface and 1.2 m above the water table. The distance between the burial site and field drains should be 10 m minimum. The distance between burial site and drinking wells, boreholes, and wells should be 250 m minimum. The distance between the burial site and springs and watercourses should be 30 m minimum as per current recommendations by global experts. (Colombo, January 2, 2021)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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  1. bisara says:

    They haven’t defined maximum transport distance for a body?

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  1. bisara says:

    They haven’t defined maximum transport distance for a body?

Sri Lanka in deep talent drain in latest currency crisis

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka businesses are facing a drain of talent, top business executives said as the country suffers the worst flexible exchange rate crisis in the history of its intermediate regime central bank and people lose hope.

“We are seeing a trend towards migrating,” Krishan Balendra, Chairman of Sri Lanka’s John Keells Holdings told an economic policy forum organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

“We have seen an impact mainly on the tourist hotels side, quite an exodus of staff (migrating) to countries we have not seen in the past. 

“We have seen people go to Scotland, Ireland. It has usually been the Middle East and Maldives. Australia seems like a red hot labor market at the moment.”

Sri Lanka’s rupee collapsed from 200 to 360 to the US dollar after macro-economists printed money to suppress rates.

Sri Lanka operates a ‘flexible exchange rate’ where errors in targeting interest rates are compensated by currency depreciation especially after the 1980s.

Classical economists and analysts have called for the power to mis-target rates and operate dual anchor conflicting monetary regimes should be taken away to prevent future crisis.

Currency crises are problems associated with flexible exchange rate central banks which are absent in hard pegs and clean floats.

“Something new we are seeing is that older people, even those in their 50s, which was a surprise, are looking at migrating,” Balendra said.

Businesses are trying to retain talent as real wages collapse.

Balendra said as businesses they see some stability returning and based on past experience growth is likely to resume, and they were communicating with the workers.

“We have a degree of conviction that the economy should get better, its the stability phase now and it will get better going forward so without the way our businesses are placed we should see good growth,” Balendra said.

“We can’t chase compensation that’s just not practical and we are not trying to do that especially if people are looking to immigrate but what we can do is show the career opportunities in the backdrop of the situation that people would rather stay here because its home.” 

Sri Lanka unit of Heineken says it is also trying to convince workers not to leave, with more success.

“We are all facing the effects of brain drain and it’s not just the lower levels… What we are doing is a balance of daring and caring,” Maud Meijboom-van Wel – Managing Director / CEO, Heineken Lanka Ltd told the forum.

“Why I say daring is, you have to be clear in what you can promise people, when you make promises you have to walk the talk. So with the key talents and everyone you need to have the career and talent conversations.

“I am a bit lucky because I am running a multinational company so my career path goes beyond Sri Lanka so I can say if you acquire certain skills here, then you can move out of here and then come back too, that is a bit easier for me but it starts with having a real open conversation with walking the talk – dare and care.” (Colombo/Dec7/2022)

 

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Despite losses, Sri Lanka to resume “park & ride” transport after complaints  

ECONOMYNEXT –  Sri Lanka’s state-run Transport Board will resume its loss-making City Bus service from January 15, 2022 Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena said, after the service abruptly discontinued with the state-run firm’s director board citing losses.

The City Bus service was introduced in 2021, under the government of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, from Makubura to Pettah and Bambalapitiya.

The service was started to reduce the number of automobiles travelling to and from Colombo and suburbs by providing a comfortable, convenient and safe public bus transportation for passengers and riders who use cars and motorcycles as their means of transportation.

During the time period in which the service was initiated, there were 800 hundred vehicles that would be parked and would use the system, Gunawardena, who is also the Transport Minister, said.

The service was later collapsed due to inconsistencies in scheduling and it was completely stopped after

“Without informing the Secretary or the Minister of the relevant Ministry, the Board of Directors have come to a conclusion that this is loss making route and must be halted,” Gunawardena said.

“The users of the City Bus service brought to our notice and therefore I gave the Secretary to the Ministry of Transport the approval to start the City Bus service from January 15.”

“If we stop all loss making transport services then massive inconveniences will occur to the people in far parts of the island.”

The chairman of the state run Ceylon Transport Board has been asked to handover the resignation letter by the Minister Gunawardana citing that the head has failed to implement a policy decision approved by the government. (Colombo/ Dec 06/2022)

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Sri Lanka may see rates falling next year: President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s interest rates are high and hurting small businesses in particular but interest rates are required to maintain stability, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

“One is, all of you want to know what’s going to happen to the interest rates?,” President Wickremesinghe told an economic policy forum organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

“I wish I know. The governor has told me that the inflation has peaked. It’s coming down. You all understandably want some relief with the interest rates to carry business on.”

“I understand that and appreciate the viewpoint. It’s not easy to carry business on with such high interest rates. On the other hand, the Central Bank also has to handle the economy. So maybe sometimes early next year we will have a meeting of minds of both these propositions.”

Sri Lanka’s interest rates are currently at around 30 percent but not because the central bank is keeping it up. The central bank’s overnight policy rate is only 15.5 percent but the requirement to finance the budget deficit and roll over debt is keeping rates up.

Rates are also high due to a flaw in the International Monetary Fund’s debt workout framework where there is no early clarity on a whether or not domestic debt will be re-structured.

After previous currency crises, rates come down after an IMF deal is approved and foreign loans resume and confidence in the currency is re-stabilished following a float.

This time however there has been no clear float, though the external sector is largely stable and foreign funding is delayed until a debt re-structure deal is made.

Sri Lanka’s external troubles usually come because the bureaucrats do not believe market rates are correct when credit demand picks up and mis-uses monetary tools given in 1950 by the parliament to suppress rates, blowing the balance of payments apart.

The result of suppressed rates by the central bank are steep spikes in rates to stop the resulting currency crisis.

A reserve collecting central bank has little or no leeway to control interest rates (monetary policy independence) without creating external troubles, which is generally expressed as the ‘impossible trinity of monetary policy objectives’.

However, it has not prevented officials from trying repeatedly to suppress rates, perhaps expecting different results.

After suppressed rates – supposedly to help businesses – trigger currency crises, the normalization combined with a currency collapse leads to impoverishment of the population.

The impoverishment through depreciation leads to a consumption shock, which also leads to revenue losses in businesses.

The suppressed rates then lead to bad loans.

In the 2020/2022 currency crisis the sovereign default has also led to more problems at banks. Several state enterprises also cannot pay back loans.

“…[T]he bad debt that is being carried by the banks is mainly from the private sector or the government sector,” President Wickremesinghe said.

“Keep the government sector aside. We’re dealing with it. How do you handle it? Look, one of our major areas of are the small and medium industries. You can’t allow them to collapse, but they’re in a bad way.”

Classical economists and analysts have called for new laws to block the ability to central bank to suppress rates in the first place so that currency crises and depreciation does not take place in the first place.

Then politicians like Wickremesinghe do not have to take drastic and unpopular measures to fix crises and there will be stability like in East Asia.

Sri Lanka had stability until 1950 when the central bank was created by abolishing an East Asia style currency board. The currency board kept the country relatively stable through two World Wars and a Great Depression.

In 1948 after the war (WWII) was over “we stood second to Japan” Wickremesinghe said.

“But we started destroying it from the sixties and the seventies,” he said. :We started rebuilding an economy, which was affected by a (civil) war, and thereafter the way we went, is best not described here.”

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