Update COVID-19

March 2021

Many European countries are currently facing more and more challenges, whilst we continue to battle the pandemic. We are observing various governmental plans around Europe in an attempt to expedite vaccinations and testing. Most countries continue to have restrictions on daily life. We observe no substantial changes in current restrictions in the funeral sector. New COVID cases remain high in many countries.

Update 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.

Update January 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.

 

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.

Update December 2020

Austria:

Lockdown since beginning of November with shops and schools closed, with gradual lifting in two-week stages. The number of deceased more than doubled in last month – now at 2,700. Max. 50 persons at funerals.

France:

France has reported over 2,100,000 Covid-19 cases, of which over 50,237 have died. Cases now more widespread across the country, with overcrowded funeral homes and time delays of average two weeks. Over 12,000 new hospitalisations, thereof over 1,800 in intensive care. Mortalities October 2020 compared to October 2019 show an increase of 31,188 deaths.

Lockdown since October 30th with bars/restaurants closed, non-essential shops closed, work, shopping, doctor/hospital by permit only, one hour outside of home within 1 km radius allowed. Funerals limited to 30 people.

Mid-term plan to gradually lift restrictions is in place for December through to January 20th and have been announced to the public by the French President.

Germany:

Partial lockdown continues through December with slight changes for Christmas. Schools remain open; all leisure facilities are closed. Regional curfews in place in high-risk areas. Funerals can still be held with hygienic measures being upheld. Max. number of persons varies by region. Number of Covid infected per day still increasing and restrictions are to keep capacity of health facilities under control. Number of deaths 300-400 per day. Total deaths 19,000.

Italy:

New cases per day 28-30,000. Tests performed per day 20-50,000. The number of (assumed) Covid deaths are around 600-700 per day. Over 1,400,000 total cases, with over 51,000 deaths.

Restrictions in place 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) .

Norway:

The situation in Norway is overall the same, we have local increasing numbers of infected persons, but the total numbers of deceased with Covid-19 just over 300. Total cases 34,000. Oslo considered “red zone” – no bars, no alcohol, stay home. Tourist attractions all closed.

General restrictions with funeral ceremonies up to 200 participants, but private gatherings is restricted to 50 people.

Portugal:

Portugal now encountering more challenges Oct/Nov than recent months. Over 217,000 cases and over 4,000 deaths. Twice as many deaths in November than during the first wave of the pandemic.  8% more deaths than 2019. Restrictions/lockdown (similar to Italy) based on severity in region, whereby 80% account for yellow or red, i.e. only 20% medium throughout the country. Weekend shops open mornings only. Max. 5 people for gatherings in public spaces. Funerals 20m² per person.

Spain:

Lockdown in four stages on a regional level, including curfews, closing of facilities, i.e. bars/restaurants, shopping.

Over 1,600,000 cases with almost 44,000 deaths. New cases 12,000 per day with over 500 deaths per day.

Max 30% of capacity allowed at funerals.

Sweden:

No lockdown, but some restrictions, e.g. gatherings max. 8 persons, funerals max. 20 people. Average attendance in Sweden 24 persons and therefore not yet a major impact. 2,500 more deaths than usual. Total 6,500 deaths to date with not of Covid. Cause of death of Covid estimated at 3%.

Update November 2020

Austria:

In Austria funerals now have a limit of 100 participants. The number of deceased is in total 1064. The number of infected people is increasing heavily. We are expecting stronger restrictions.

Germany:

Strict restrictions have been put in place for the month of November (partial lockdown) by the federal government for all counties. All schools remain open and all leisure facilities are closed. Funerals can still be held with hygienic measures being upheld.  Number of Covid infected is increasing rapidly (19,000+ on 31.10.2020) and restrictions are to keep capacity of health facilities under control. Number of deaths very slightly increased.

However, each of the 16 countries can implement their own rules. Example: Burials and funeral ceremonies remain permitted. At every funeral, the minimum distance of 1.50 m must be observed. An everyday mask must always be worn in mourning halls; for funerals in the open air only if there are 25 or more participants.  The pastor may take off the mask. An attendance list must always be kept in closed rooms. Only close relatives without distancing measures allowed in outside services. For private mourning halls, 10m² space per person. Catering services generally prohibited.

Italy:

The number of (assumed) Covid deaths are around 200 per day. The number of contagions are increasing day by day (almost 20.000). The government issued a new act last Monday that impose some strong restrictions on the leisure time activities, disco, cinema, theaters and gym must to be closed, bar – restaurants and pub, open till 6,00 p.m. but no more than 6 people at the same table. Obligation to wear the mask everywhere –except home! They push on the smart working and the school are open but with some restrictions.

There is the concrete possibility the lockdown in will be declared in some cities and areas where the number of contagions - a well as the hospitalizations - are dangerously high.

Norway:

The situation in Norway is overall the same, we have local increasing numbers of infected persons, but the total numbers of deceased of Covid-19 are only 275.

We have the same general restrictions with funeral ceremonies up to 200 participants, but private gatherings is restricted to 50 people, even only 20 in some municipalities.

Portugal:

Portugal has reported 144.341 Covid cases which 81.771 are already recovered and 2.544 deaths. In October have been registered at the last 7 days a daily average of 3.596 new Covid cases (+512% than April) and 30 deaths per day (+7% than April). So, this is increasing and the authorities are concerned about the capacity of health facilities to attend everybody.

New rules for some regions are announced as: civic duty to be at home; differentiate schedules of the employees; obligation to work at home always when it’s possible; 5 person at maximum joint together; funeral with no limit in out space just for family, in side chapels or other inside rooms depends of the area; general use of mask even outside; commercial shops and restaurants must close at 22H00.

Spain:

In Spain, at the request of the Government, Congress has approved a new emergency state, for a period 6 months. Under this legal coverage, the regions (“Comunidades Autónomas”) may approve different restrictions depending on how the pandemic evolves in their territories.

The first one, a curfew every night of the week, from 10-12 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next day. The perimeter closure of all municipalities and some regions has also been imposed (not home confinement). In many regions, restaurants are closed (only delivery/take away is allowed), and cinemas, theatres, sports clubs, etc. too. Schools are still open and in universities, classes are mostly taught online.

The rate of new infections is increasing a lot (25.595 new cases on last Saturday). Spain has reported 1.190.000 Covid cases and 35.877 deaths. The daily number of hospital admissions is also increasing and the authorities are concerned  that the health system could collapse within a few weeks.

But the rules are beginning to have positive effects in the territories where they began to apply two weeks ago.

In our sector, the situation is under control by the moment. The number of daily Covid deaths has grown but fortunately it is well below the levels reached in March and April. Wakes: limited to 6 people. Ceremonies: limited to 30 % of capacity. This All Saints weekend, the number of visitors to cemeteries has dropped significantly, compared to last year.  

Sweden:

We have no lockdowns, but we currently have a very large spread of infection in the country at the same time as we increase the number of guests at funerals from 50 to 300. Which is very doubtful when the spread of infection is at its highest. Number of deaths are very low.

Update October 2020

Many countries all over the world are yet again facing difficult and challenging times and we are far from normaility in all aspects of our current life. However, we have all been able to learn how to deal with the pandemic on all levels and we continue to support our members whereever possible. Please contact us at any time.

Update

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 allowed with up to 15 persons; COVID-19 deceased - forbidden to dress the deceased body, show and view it, closed coffin; 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.