Sri Lanka fears new coronavirus outbreak after funeral breaks curfew
Posted on May 30th, 2020

Courtesy The Straits Times

People carrying the coffin of Arumugam Thondaman in the central tea capital of Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, on May 30, 2020.
People carrying the coffin of Arumugam Thondaman in the central tea capital of Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, on May 30, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lankan authorities fear a fresh outbreak of coronavirus infections after thousands of mourners paid their respects to the body of a respected union leader on Saturday (May 31), defying a curfew and social distancing rules.

Large crowds were seen jostling to bid farewell to Arumugam Thondaman, the leader of a tea plantation union and a government minister.

The 55-year-old died of a heart attack on Tuesday and is due to be cremated on Sunday at Nuwara Eliya, in the country’s tea-growing highlands.

Authorities had imposed a 24-hour curfew in an unsuccessful attempt to stop crowds from visiting Thondaman’s body.

“Crowd control has been difficult. Distraught supporters have tried to push down police barriers to get into a building and pay their respects,” a police officer in the area said.

Large crowds had also gathered at the office of his Ceylon Worker’s Congress party in Colombo to view his body before the funeral procession went east for final rites.

A statement by a group of government doctors warned the funeral “could undermine public confidence in measures taken so far to contain the spread of the virus and lead to a second wave.”

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