Covid Updates

We express our continued appreciation to everyone in the funeral profession, who continue to service the bereaved with the highest standards, respect and dignity.

February 2021

France:

The overall situation in France continues to be extremely challenging and has been ongoing extremely intense since November 2021. Mortality rate 2020 ca 10% above 2019.  

Funeral professionals have still not been defined as priority. The French Association has written to their Ministry of Health, but no response. Approx. 60-70% of the population is in favour of vaccination.

No further changes in restrictions.

Sweden:

Vaccinations have commenced. Funeral profession is defined as priority group 2 – after persons aged 70+ and health care workers. From March 2020 to date approx. 11,000 total covid-related deaths (5,000 more than average 2015-2019). Direct cremations have increased substantially to 15% - almost double to usual percentage.

No further changes in restrictions.

Italy:

No substantial changes since last report. Italy is currently in a political crisis following the resignation of the prime minister. How the government moves forward is unforeseeable. There is a “technical” government in place.

Although delayed from the original planning, vaccinations are ongoing and the second dose vaccination has started.

Funeral profession not yet defined as priority. The Italian Association has written to their Ministry of Health, but no response.

Restrictions continue to be based on severity: yellow stage = light lockdown (e.g. work and school allowed), orange = medium (decision by municipality), red = high (e.g. stay home, no school).

Germany:

Funeral profession is very busy. Immense challenges specifically in the eastern part of Germany. Cremations are posing big problems. Average cremation rate of ca. 72% has increased to 95% in some regions. Body bags for cremation are also a problem, as they are unwanted by crematoria operators.

Intensive efforts ongoing to define funeral professionals as priority.

N.B.: on 08.02.2021 the national government defined the funeral sector as priority group and amended federal law accordingly.

Spain:

The overall situation in Spain is getting worse. Hospitals are over capacity, curfews are enforced, a maximum of 6 people and max 30% of capacity allowed at funerals. Home confinement appears to be imminent.

Portugal:

Portugal is in a disastrous state: 1,200 deaths per million population, mortality rate up by 30%, funeral homes are on the verge of collapse, 24-30 hours for a funeral after death now at 5-7 days. Hospitals are well over capacity, body bags causing problems with crematoria operators. The Portuguese Association has provided an action plan to the government, with some being accepted for implementation, e.g. work schedules at cemeteries and crematoria. Cold chambers are a problem for hospitals and funeral homes.

Austria:

Number of deaths decreasing compared to end of 2020. Funeral homes are able to manage the situation. Funeral professionals are included in the group “critical infrastructure”, i.e. second level after health care and are to receive vaccinations from March onward.

Slovakia:

Similar situation as in most European countries and getting critical. Ca. 100 deaths per day. Funeral operators are forced to buy cooling vehicles for storage. Cremations more than ever.

The Slovakian Association has written to their Ministry of Health, but no response.

Norway:

Norway is affected by the virus variant B.1.1.7 in all 25 regions of the country. Funeral professionals are in the same priority as health care workers. Mortality rate for 2020 appears to be slightly lower than 2019. Total of ca 550 covid-related deaths in all of Norway.

Complete update COVID-19

Update January 19, 2021

Austria:

There are currently around 28.000 people infected in Austria. The 7-day incidence is almost stable (143) – although we have now over 2 months of lockdown and differences between the eastern and western part of Austria. Until now around 7,000 people died because of Covid-19. The death rate increased rapidly in December and decreased now again to the level of October.

France:

Due to the coronavirus epidemic, the year 2020 was marked by an increase in mortality. According to a provisional assessment by INSEE (statistics institute), France has recorded 9% more deaths in 2020 than in 2019. Since March, we have had more than 70,000 deaths due to Covid-19 with more 2,872,000 confirmed cases. On January 16th, the government extended 6 pm curfew to all of France.

Due to the high level of deaths in the past two months, most of the funeral employees are physically and mentally exhausted.

The funeral ceremony is still limited to 30 people, with the exception of places of worship where we can perform ceremonies depending on the capacity of the place.

Germany:

There are currently around 314,900 people infected with coronavirus in Germany. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) recorded 22.368 new infections within 24 hours (on January 15, 12:00 a.m.). This means that 2,000,958 people in Germany have demonstrably been infected with the corona virus since the pandemic began. The total number of deaths are recorded at 48,000.

The situation has been problematic in some counties (for example Sachsen/Saxony) over the turn of the year because registry offices have not issued documents and therefore cremations could not be carried out in a timely manner. This has however now improved. The funeral directors are very busy at the moment.

Schools closed completely; all non-essential shops closed; no curfew yet in place. Stricter restrictions expecteed.

We have started with the vaccine-program. When we will be finished is not foreseeable.

Italy:

The Italian situation is more or less the same, daily cases are between 15,000 to 20,000 depending on how many tests they do. Expectations were lower because we are coming from a strict Christmas lock down. In 2020, the average mortality rate increased. With some 70,000 deaths, this is more than the average of last three years, but it is not official data.

The restrictions are still based on colours: yellow (light - you can go through the region and cross the border but only into a yellow region - most of the activity are open); orange (medium - you cannot cross the border of your municipality, restaurants are closed, only take away is allowed, shops open with restrictions); red (strong - nobody can go out of home unless for emergency or work -most of the activity are closed).

Currently two regions in red, 3 regions in yellow and the other 16 in orange. The government has issued common strict restriction: from Jan. 16th to Feb. 16th nobody can cross the regional border.

We started to vaccination with 1 million vaccinations to date, starting with health care workers. Second doses set to start in the next few days.

The funeral profession is not included in the priority, Feniof (Italian Funeral Association) have asked the government for priority but no answer as yet.

No further restrictions on funeral field since last update.

Norway:

A total of over 500 deaths now reported since March 2020.

Our funeral business are overall normal, but with a small reduction in revenue, due to restrictions of total amount of guests that we are allowed to invite to a funeral service.

We don’t have the total numbers of death for 2020 yet, but the prognosis says a little lower total number than 2019.

We have started with the vaccine program, and hopefully we are finished in July.

Portugal:

In Portugal we are facing a huge increase of mortality in this month, in January we register more than 40% of deaths vs last year, 60% of this increase is due to Covid-19, the others it is said are consequence of cold weather and difficulties to access the health services in hospitals.

Portugal has just started a general close down on January 15th for a period of one month, to be reviewed.

Funerals of common cause of death can be held just with restrictions on the number of people in the facilities, depends on the ratio of the area.

The rule for Covid -19 death is no vigil, the funeral goes directly to cemetery or crematorium.

We are sensitizing the authorities to provide more cold storage in the hospitals, generalize digital death registration in civil offices throughout the country, extend cemetery schedules, etc.

The vaccine program has started in December but funeral professionals are not yet considered yet a priority group.

Slovakia: (Visegrad = Slovakia, Czech Repubic, Hungary)

Uncertainty and fear guide funeral services. Funeral staff were simply afraid of the infection and do not want to put the deceased in their shrouds, and burials take place in autopsy bags with the coffin closed. A specific situation that one entire pathology department in Bratislava remained closed due to an infection of employees, including the chief pathologist, and the deceased had to be transported to another pathology did not contribute to reassurance. Based on the decision of the Chief Hygienist of the Slovak Republic, who declared Covid as a less contagious disease while dressing the deceased, the situation has calmed down a bit. Similar overall sitution in our neighbouring country Czech Republic.

As a national association, we will have to deal with the situation of new allocation of licenses for funeral services due to teaching in psychology, some did not manage at all and we also had a record number of phone calls a day, where we calmed down, advised how they are to behave in relation to that situation and when they are to be dressed in protective clothing when handling the deceased.

The cost of funerals has also increased, mainly due to protective and disinfectant means when handling the deceased. No support at all from the governments of Slovakia, Czech or Hungarian funeral services any equipment for the given activity.

Spain:

In Spain, the restrictions that affect our sector are more or less the same as December: 6 people maximum at the same time in wakes and 30% capacity in ceremonies.

The vaccination program started at the end of December, like in the rest of Europe but, for the moment, funeral operators are not considered a priority group.

We continue under the emergency state (expected until May), with different restrictions depending on a regional basis (Comunidad Autónoma). There is a curfew across the country from 10-12 p.m. to 6  a.m. next day.

In Spain we are in the “third wave” of the pandemic as of the end of December, and the situation is getting worse. The number of new Covid cases has about 575 per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days. Some 40,000 new cases per day were reported on Jan 15th (2,250,000 since the beginning of March 2020) and about 54,000 deaths since March 2020.

Sweden:

Total deaths just over 10,000 since March 2020.

Funeral profession working relatively normally, except that there are more direct cremations and the number of guests are a maximum of 20.

The prognosis of the mortaility rate for 2020 is about 5,000 more in comparison to 2015-2019 average.

We have started with vaccine program and we in the funeral buisness are in the priorty group 2.

 

Complete update COVID-19

Update December 15, 2020

Austria:

The numbers of deceased with COVID-19 increased in Austria since beginning of November. Although the number of infected people decreased because of the country’s second strict lockdown (ended on Dec 6), the situation is still challenging. The 7-days incidence is currently 209.

France:

French government simplified administrative rules concerning funerals as an extension of the derogation for burial or cremation from 6 to 21 days from 12 December 2020 to 16 March 2021.

The number of participants at religious funerals is no longer limited to 30 people but to the capacity of the place of worship to accommodate people with the necessary distance.

For funeral homes, crematoria and cemeteries the number of persons is still limited to 30.

Germany:

Recent partial lockdown did not result in the effects that the government was hoping to achieve. In December the number of Covid infected and deceased persons shows a sharp increase so that capacity of health facilities risks getting out of control (intensive care 4,500 persons and increasing). Number of deaths 350 – 600 a day, total deaths about 22,000.

Government implemented a stricter lockdown from December 16th through to January 10th with bars/restaurants, non-essential shops and all leisure facilities closed. Only work, shopping for necessities, doctor/hospital are allowed. Schools will be closed (home-schooling or holiday) as well. Gatherings of max. 5 persons (two households) in public places. All festivities incl. New Year fireworks and gatherings are forbidden.

Funerals can still be held with hygienic measures being upheld. (Further restrictions regarding max. number of persons etc. are currently under consideration by regional authorities.)

Italy:

Correction made regarding the numbers of Covid19 test done per day: not between 20/50,000 but between 150/200,000.

The situation remains unchanged for the funeral sector but the colours of the regions are changing like traffic lights. A general downgrade (no more regions in red) last weekend, resulted in too many gatherings due to the Christmas shopping. There is concrete possibility many regions will revert to red soon again. We are still seeing higher numbers of positives, hospitalizations and covid deaths.

Portugal:

The situation is getting better with the recent restrictions but very far from the goal. Number of new Covid cases still very high - about 529 cases per 100,000 population in the last 14 days. The main cities are decreasing their figures and have downgraded their risk colour. Nevertheless, Lisbon and Oporto are still high-risk regions and maintain restrictions at night and on weekends.

Funeral are still allowed and can be held taking the capacity of the vigil room (1 person/20m²) into account. Just the Covid deceased cannot have any wake and are transferred directly to the cemetery/crematorium.

Spain:

Generally, the situation has been improving in recent weeks, but it seems that this development has stalled in recent days. The number of new Covid cases is about 193 cases per 100,000 population in the last 14 days. Restrictions are more or less the same in four stages on a regional level, including curfews, closing of facilities, i.e. bars/restaurants, shopping.

Complete update COVID-19

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