Update COVID-19

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.

31.03.2020

Update from France:

The High Council of Public Health has issued a new advisory on the contagion of the deceased:

  • Preparatory measures for funeral without using water is allowed.
  • Embalming is still forbidden.
  • Presentation of the deceased is now allowed in the body bag by opening it 10 cm. Restriction of not allowing family members to see their deceased was waived.
  • All handling of the deceased must be done with PPE.

All three French professional funeral federations (private and public) have written to the Prime Minister to denounce the lack of equipment to accomplish our mission and have also requested to be listed as priority professions to access the masks. However, we have not yet had any.

Furthermore, the government has simplified the funeral regulations for one month knowing that each file will have to be regulated. Religious authorities, such as Muslim and Jewish recommend not to touch the body of a deceased.

Update from the UK: (from the Cremation Society)

The bereavement sector in the UK  is represented by a number of organisations, covering both funeral directors and those who manage, provide and work in cemeteries and crematoria. There has always been a great deal of mutual support and cooperation between all the kindred organisations.

In view, however, of the current extraordinary circumstances in which our communities and individuals now find themselves, the organisations have agreed to work together in order to be able to better support not only their members but society as a whole.

As the Deceased Management Advisory Group (DMAG), representatives from each of the following organisations will work together to develop a consensus approach to the many challenging issues which now face the sector.

  • The Association of Private Crematoria and Cemeteries (APCC)
  • Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities (FBCA)
  • Funeral Furnishing Manufacturers' Association (FFMA)
  • Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM)
  • National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
  • National Society of Allied & Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF)
  • The Cremation Society

During the current national emergency, we will all seek to deliver ongoing support to bereaved people in the United Kingdom.

We have launched a website and a Twitter page:  www.dmag2020.org and Twitter: @DMAG2020

We update these sites on a daily basis.

30.03.2020

Update from UK

On 26 March 2020 the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, signed the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Commencement No. 1) Regulations 2020. Please click here for the Statement.

Thank you to Jeremy Field of CPJ Field & Co. for his valuable comment on how this impacts the funeral profession: "The intended benefit of these changes is to ease the administrative burden in death and ensure that any obstacles to the efficient processing of funeral arrangements are removed.

It should mean that funerals can happen quicker.  That doctors, families and funeral directors have less contact with third parties by not visiting too many locations in person (doctor doesn’t have to go to the funeral home, funeral director doesn’t have to take papers to the crematorium, grieving family don’t have to visit Registrar to register death etc.)

It also means that the local government can step in and manage funeral directors, crematoria and cemeteries if they need to.  We hope they don’t need to."

23.03.2020

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has just published their considerations when dealing with deceased persons. Please click here for the pdf or use this link.

Update Spain: During the state of emergency, the government has approved that the minimum waiting period of 24 hours before burial or cremation is waived. They have announced that Congress (Congreso de los Diputados) will vote this to extend the state of emergency for two more weeks to April 11th.