Update COVID-19

28.05.2020

Update from the EFFS Board members:

France: funeral ceremonies allowed with up to 20 people; total deaths 28,000; state of emergency extended to July 10, 2020

Sweden: waiting period for funerals increased from normal 24 days to 30 days; no embalming; all deceased body bags mandatory; total deaths 4,200 thereof 3,900 in last 10 weeks with 50% in Stockholm; funerals with max. 50 persons allowed; viewing allowed

Italy: many restrictions and regulations lifted as of May 11, 2020; funerals not allowed for COVID19 deceased; funerals for deceased from other causes of death allowed with up to 15 persons; total deaths 34,000; mortality rate returning to normal rate

Germany: steps toward normality throughout the country; major problem federalism; each of 16 counties can make own decisions on regulations and restrictions; total deaths 8,000; normal daily mortality rate in comparison 2,500 deaths; funerals limited depending on county from family members only to max. 50 persons; PPE shortage for funeral professionals and hospitals

Spain: mortality rate started returning to normal numbers beginning of April; since mid-May at normal rate; steps back to normality in four phases (0-4) with two-week intervals; most municipalities in phase 1 with Barcelona and Madrid at phase 0; total deaths 28,000 with no more outbreaks; new infections low; funerals with max. 10 persons; funeral faculties can only operate at 30% of max. capacity

Portugal: state of emergency lifted end of April; 29,000 positive COVID cases, 1,200 deaths, 4% of cases died due to COVID and 24% were COVID infected; max. 10 people at any gathering; nationwide decision by members of Portuguese Funeral Association not to practice the tradition of vigils; bereaved can view deceased 30-40 minutes before funeral

Austria: closing of borders caused problems; schools and shops have re-opened; funerals up to 30 persons allowed; variations depending on size of facility (10m² per person); 500 total deaths; digitalisation and streaming services increased substantially; revenue down by 25% due to less services being purchased for funerals

Slovakia: outdoor funeral allowed; up to 5 persons; total deaths 24 nationwide; government closed borders, airports, schools, churches; moving towards normality in four phases with the country now at phase 3; schools re-opening in June; PPE becoming difficult; COVID19 infected body bag mandatory

Norway: lockdown since March 13, 2020, epicentre Oslo; reduced revenue at funerals; max. 50 people; total deaths 235; mortality rate including COVID deceased less than same time last year; re-opening commencing; Norwegian production of PPE; streaming services well received

15.05.2020

Update from Croatia:

Recommendations and instructions of the Croatian Institute of Public Health.

International funeral drivers can enter Croatia and leave Croatia without self-isolation.

Croatian and foreign citizens entering the Republic are obliged to adhere to these recommendations and instructions for 14 days from the day of crossing the state border as follows:

  • During the first 14 days from the entry into the Republic of Croatia, exits from the accommodation are limited only to the necessary: ​​performing work if it is a business reason for entering the Republic
  • Croatia, performing the necessary activities with continuously intensified implementation of hygiene measure.
  • It is recommended to use a mouth mask or nasal cover during necessary exits from the accommodation, maintain physical distance from other people (minimum 1.5 meters) and carry out hand hygiene. Wash your hands as often as possible with warm soapy water and / or use a disinfectant to hands that should be rubbed well into the palms. Avoid touching face, mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Avoid using public transport. If using transport, it is desirable that the person alone or exclusively with persons sharing shared accommodation.
  • Groupings and public gatherings should be consistently avoided
  • During business meetings, as few people as possible should be met, physical space should be ensured of 1.5 meters with the availability of disinfectants, avoid unnecessary meetings.
  • During their stay in the accommodation, such persons prepare food themselves, i.e. use delivery services for food and beverage
  • Payment services are performed by cashless card payment or online services.
  • It is necessary to measure body temperature every morning; if it is higher than 37.2°, it is necessary repeat the measurement after 10 minutes, and if the temperature is again higher than 37.2°, it is necessary to stay at home / in accommodation and contact the chosen family medicine doctor if any (Croatian citizens), or a territorially competent epidemiologist
  • In case of symptoms of acute respiratory infection (cough, sore throat, increased body temperature, shortness of breath / difficulty breathing, loss of sense of smell and taste), it is necessary to stay at home / in accommodation and contact the chosen family medicine doctor if any (Croatian citizens), or a territorially competent epidemiologist
  • In case of sudden onset of severe, life-threatening symptoms, the person appears in an emergency medical service.
  • If symptoms of respiratory disease occur. If you develop symptoms of respiratory disease (fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, sore throat, weakness) call your chosen doctor, who will, based on your medical condition assess the need for possible testing for a new coronavirus. If you need it seek medical attention for reasons other than respiratory illness, call your chosen doctor or some it is contacted by one of your family members for a consultation and arrangement for a home visit. Don't go alone to a health facility without prior telephone notice.

Croatian Institute of Public Health website https://www.hzjz.hr/sluzba-epidemiologija-zaraznebolesti/koronavirus-najnovije-preporuke/

08.05.2020

Update from Italy:

Since May 4, Italy has entered the so-called Phase 2, which means a progressive loosening of social limitations and a widening of the reopening of economic activities.

With regard to deaths  the lockdown has been effective and, although in a differentiated way, the mortality rate is showing a tendency toward the expected rate. At the same time, the Ministry of Health has strengthened the instruments for monitoring the dynamics of the parameter R with zero, in order to keep track of the generation of new outbreaks and to intervene in time to contain them, even on a small scale.

Phase 2 has provided for the resumption of funeral rites, even though with restrictions on the participation of the mourners: no more than 15 people and with prophylaxis and safety measures (in particular, social distancing and the use of masks).

By regulation of local authorities, cemeteries are open to citizens and operators, but with recommendations to avoid crowding.

In regions particularly affected by the epidemic, the funeral sector has been under severe stress, particularly in terms of cremation.

The state of emergency has highlighted critical issues that have emerged during this period but present under track in ordinary situations: information system, simplification of procedures and introduction of digital platforms.

We have to commend several experiences promoted by voluntary associations as well as by operators to help in the elaboration mourning in remote for those who have been unable to carry out funeral rites because of quarantine or other restrictions.

07.05.2020

Update from Germany:

The federal government is moving towards "normality" by lifting many restrictions and allowing several activities to take place and businesses to re-open throughout the month of May. No changes in maintaining 1,5 to 2 meters distance everywhere. No new guidelines for the funeral sector.

04.05.2020

Update from Spain:

The situation in Spain is improving. On Monday May 4th, a new period of confinement begins, with several phases that will gradually lighten the situation to go back to normal, although it will be different. Hopefully the data of new infected and deaths continue to drop. The initial planned duration of each phase is 2 weeks. The results will be assessed province by province and the period may be extended from week to week separately, each at its own pace.

In the funeral sector, some new regulations will be mandatory from Monday, May 11th:

Funeral homes (“tanatorios”):

  • Phase I:  visitation rooms/wakes only for a limited number of relatives, with physical distance and safety protocols                 
  • Phase II: visitation rooms/wakes only for a less limited number of relatives, with physical distance and safety protocols    
  • Phase III: visitation rooms/wakes for a bigger number of visitors, with physical distance and safety protocols         

Ceremonies in churches or funeral homes:

  • Phase I: limitation of 1/3 of the capacity
  • Phase II: limitation of 1/2 of the capacity
  • Phase III: no limitation

These regulations are not yet very clear or concrete and there is plenty of room for interpretation and application, especially in wakes. For this reason, the Spanish funeral sector will be submitting some precise ideas to the Health Minister in order to have more clarity on these regulations.

25.04.2020

Pope at Mass prays for funeral service workers during pandemic

At the start of the Mass, Saturday morning, Pope Francis urges for prayers for those who work in funeral services. In his homily, he explains that the preaching of the faith is essentially witnessing to the Gospel.
 

At the start of the Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Saturday morning, Pope Francis urged for prayers for those working in funeral services. 

“What they do is something very painful and sad.  They are touched closely by the pain of this pandemic,” he said.

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope-francis/mass-casa-santa-marta/2020-04/pope-francis-mass-marta-funeral-service-missionary-witness.html

 

22.04.2020

Update from Sweden:

  • Homes for the elderly are affected most
  • Funeral ceremonies with max 50 persons, in some regions not more then 10 people
  • Cremation and burial are both allowed
  • Viewing and autopsy are allowed, but embalming is prohibited
  • Morturaries are filling quickly with rising number of deceased (alternatives are being used, e.g. ice hockey rink for storage in Stockholm)

Update from Norway:

  • number of deceased remains low and geographically mostly in the Olso area
  • country on lock-down, kindergardens and schools slowly re-opening
  • shortage of PPE, new suppliers in start-up mode

10.04.2020

Update from Portugal:

  • Portuguese official statistics are showing a slight improvement of COVID deaths and suspected cases. New measures are being discussed.
  • Covid cases go direct to the cemetery/crematoria, without previous ceremony with restrict number of relatives;
  • Deceased with other cause of death can have a ceremony but with restrict number of relatives;
  • Persons considered "at risk group" cannot attend the funeral;
  • In fact, because of the confinement and general fear, the majority of the funerals don’t have ceremony and just a few people attend it;
  • Covid funeral, the deceased is placed in two body bags with disinfectant between them and then in the coffin;
  • There is no thanatopraxy neither preparation as dressing the body;
  • The coffin cannot be opened throughout the entire funeral process;
  • Cremation is recommended, except if the deceased has been under radioactive treatment with iodine-125 and 131;
  • Funeral can occur before the 24h after the death; (previously only after 24h mourning period)
  • Adequate PPE for funeral staff. The price of this material has undergone a huge increase.

Update from Austria:

  • Based on a decreasing number of infected people, the government has decided to open small shops again after Easter.
  • No significant increase in the number of deceased.
  • There is enough PPE for funeral staff.
  • Less services are being ordered (music, flowers etc.) because of the small number of people who can attend a funeral.

09.04.2020

Update from Italy:

The Ministry of Public Health has issued a new protocol to adopt in the funeral services, crematoria and cemeteries. The protocol will continue to be valid one month after the government declares the end of the State of National Emergency.

  • All deceased are to be treated as Covid19 infected unless the medical doctor explicitly declares "death is not due to Covid 19" on the death certificate;
  • Covid19 (and suspected one) deceased can not be dressed, no thanatopractical treatments are allowed, deceased must be wrapped in a sheet wet of disinfectant and closed in a body bag;
  • The coffin has to be closed as soon as the death certificate is completed and must be disinfected in all of its parts;
  • The transport of body from the place of death to the funeral home/remembrance room is not allowed;
  • No funeral ceremonies are allowed, cemeteries have been closed and only few people are allowed assist at the burial;
  • If a family member has not arranged for funeral transport, burial or cremation within 48 hours after death, the local authority will provide transport and burial ex officio.

Update from Germany:

The Robert-Koch-Institute (responsible for nationwide health monitoring) has published updated recommendations for the handling of COVID-19 deceased:

  • The German Infection Protection Act states that death certificates must state “infectious” but the RKI also recommends that a COVID-19 is explicitly noted on the death certificate.
  • Many regional health authorities stated that COVID-19 deceased do not present any particular risk of infection. The RKI makes it clear that there is a risk of droplet infection when handling the deceased. The RKI specifically warns of risk of infection through smear infection and body fluids escaping or secretions through e.g. removal of catheters and tubes. Contact with mucous membranes must also be considered contagious. They further recommend that employees who belong to a risk group should not be handling a COVID-19 deceased.
  • In addition to the previous precautionary measures, the RKI also recommends the use of head coverings and arm protectors when handling the deceased in addition to the previous precautionary measures.
  • New recommendations for cremation: the deceased should be undressed, and it is recommended that examinations be carried out in the pathology rooms, whereby procedures of the crematorium should be followed in the absence of a national directive.
  • The RKI considers farewell at an open coffin with appropriate distance possible. NOTE: Regional legislation applies and takes precedence. In most of Germany, an open coffin is prohibited.
  • The previous recommendation “International transports should be avoided. If international transport is unavoidable, a cremation before the transport is recommended.” has been deleted.

01.04.2020

Update from Germany:

The German Association of Funeral Directors have submitted a request to the National Society of Hospitals asking to standardise a process for all German hospitals on procedures to be taken following the death of a corona patient. The submission is based on information received from hospital management in a large German city and provides guidedlines for e.g. on necessary informaton to be included in death certificates, refraining from an autopsy or embalming, disinfecting measures, to the point of handing over to the funeral professional.