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COLOMBO: Sri Lanka on Friday ended forced cremations of people who have died of coronavirus, after visiting Prime Minister Imran Khan urged Colombo to respect the funeral rites of the island's minority Muslims.

The government first banned burials in April over concerns -- which experts said were baseless -- by influential Buddhist monks that the practice could contaminate groundwater and spread the virus.

The policy was decried by members of the South Asian nation's Muslim community who constitute 10 percent of the 21 million population.

While health minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi did not give a reason in her announcement reversing the ban, official sources said Khan had raised the subject with both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa during his trip earlier this week.

Dozens of demonstrators had used Khan's visit as an opportunity to call attention to the Sri Lankan government's disregard for Islamic burial customs and carried a mock coffin.

In response to the policy change, Khan thanked his Sri Lankan counterparts.

"I... welcome the Sri Lankan govt's official notification allowing the burial option for those dying of Covid 19," he said on Twitter.

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