CEMETERIES where Covid-19 victims are buried are unlikely to pose a threat of infections to nearby communities, as the virus is no longer infective.
Former deputy Health director-general Prof Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said although a viral genome could be detected inside a body long after the onset of infection, the virus would no longer be viable.
He said various studies had indicated that such specimens showed no growth when cultured in a laboratory.
“This is why Covid-19 patients who show clinical improvements will be discharged between 10 and 14 days, without undergoing another test.
“The genome is still inside the surviving patients, but the virus is already dead,” he told StarMetro.A video widely circulated early this month showed water runoff from Bukit Kiara Muslim cemetery in Kuala Lumpur, flowing into an adjacent waterway during a downpour.
Prof Lokman explained that even if the virus were still alive after the patient died, which he stressed was “very unlikely”, it would not infect anyone.
“The victim is no longer breathing, so how could the virus exit the respiratory system?
“It will perish with the body,” he stressed.
Universiti Malaya virologist Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar supported the explanation, saying that the virus could only replicate inside the cells of a living host.
“It will disintegrate just like a corpse.
“The virus outside the body is not infective because it has been inactivated by disinfectants,” he said.
Water quality specialist Dr Zaki Zainudin said although water from a cemetery might contain heavy metals and organics, it was unlikely to contain active viruses.
“At worse, there may be fragments of genomic materials of the virus, but these are likely already dead.
“The World Health Organisation has also said that Covid-19 does not transmit through water,” he pointed out.
Universiti Putra Malaysia epidemiologist Assoc Prof Dr Malina Osman said that so far, no Covid-19 infections had been traced to cemeteries or water bodies.
Bukit Kiara Muslim cemetery has been a burial site for many individuals who died from Covid-19 since March last year.
Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department director Datuk Mohd Ajib Ismail said the cemetery received bodies of locals and those from Hospital Kuala Lumpur.
He said the department’s charity and volunteer unit worked closely with the Civil Defence Department and Health Ministry to carry out the funerals.
“Burials are carried out from 9am until night every day.
“Our team will ensure that the bodies are buried according to religious rites.
“All our personnel abide by the procedures that have been set by the district health office, such as wearing personal protective equipment and frequent sanitation,” he said.