The small matter of death: how the virus has changed funerals

The government has brought in new restrictions on funeral arrangements. (Photo: Macleay)

There’s confusion around a lot of things to do with coronavirus, and if you can make sense of the government’s muddled messaging you’re doing well.

An area causing concern for families, especially those with members suffering terminal illness, is funerals and how they’re to be run in a time of social distancing.

The Department of Health has published an information sheet which has limited funeral processions to no more than 10 people.

Religions such as Islam which require a family member to clean the body of the deceased before burial have been told for the time being to no longer take part in the practice and leave the task to professionals.

The Australian National Imams Council say coronavirus restrictions will deeply impact Islamic funerals.

“These measures may impact the way the Muslim community fulfills the final rites of the deceased in accordance with Islamic tradition,” a spokesman said.

Embalming of individuals who have died as a direct result of coronavirus is also not recommended. The government has advised family members do not touch and or kiss the deceased. The same advice has been passed onto funeral attendees to not touch or kiss family members.

Funeral directors have also been told to practice caution and remind family and friends of the deceased to exercise social distancing and wash their hands frequently.

Nigel Davies the President of National Funeral Directors Association of Australia told ABC News: “Funeral directors are trying to do the same things that any hospital or ambulance person would, but we have to have access to the equipment to do that.”

Nigel added there was a shortage of equipment necessary to contain coronavirus once an individual has died.

Davies stated that “there was a shortage of leak-proof body bags for handling bodies confirmed or suspected to have died as a result of COVID-19 and the bags were too valuable to dispose of after a single use”.

Cremation has been offered as a solution to the current uncertainty facing funerals, but Rabbi Jeffery Kamins told ABC News it was against the Jewish faith.

“For us the body is sacred, and burial is a core aspect of how we do it,” said Rabbi Kamins.

Catholic Cemeteries & Crematoria commented they are “closely monitoring all available information provided by the Department of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to develop strategies to prioritise the safety of our customers and employees”.

Funerals have long been a large social gathering and a time to mourn and remember loved ones. And the government is now front and center in the discussion of how we should send off our nearest and dearest.

About Mansour Shukoor 3 Articles
Currently working as a freelance journalist for Chattr specialising in politics, sports, music and film. As well as pop culture as a whole.