Covid-19: logistical challenges for funeral directors
Emerson De Luca, International Secretary at FIAT-IFTA, a global organisation representing funeral directors from around the world, as well as unions/associations of funeral directors, tells ITIJ about the myriad challenges faced by the global funeral repatriations industry throughout the global pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic is an ever-changing story, and it has challenged the world on unprecedented levels. The impact on the funeral industry has been felt keenly. As well as dealing with an increase in the number of deaths, there is a constant and serious risk of infection faced by staff working in funeral homes. Many are overwhelmed by the work and the pressure presented in these difficult times.
The unclear approach to the situation at government level – and the lack of guidelines in many countries – has hindered the situation even further. The lack of PPE, for instance, was one of the main difficulties encountered by many funeral homes across the world – in particular, at the start of the pandemic. And some countries took (and still take) the harsh approach of direct burial or cremation, denying families the opportunity to pay their respects to their loved ones.
International repatriation has therefore been greatly impacted by the pandemic. Many countries simply do not accept repatriation of a deceased diagnosed with Covid-19. In addition to this, flight availability has presented another major problem.
Embalming key to transporting the deceased
Funeral directors have been trying to accommodate families’ wishes to the best of their abilities for local funerals, as well as repatriations. Many companies, if allowed, continued to offer embalming of Covid-19 deceased. This facilitated not only viewings of the deceased, but also repatriation to many countries that would accept the deceased in an embalmed state.
With limited flight availability, the offer of long-storage facilities by many funeral homes has enabled repatriations to take place at a later stage, as well as the use of cargo flights to increase the options for repatriations.
An increased demand for virtual funeral services
One of the important changes for funerals has been the restrictions on social distance and the fact that limited numbers of family members are allowed to attend the funeral. This has brought a surge in requests for online streaming of funeral services, which gives some comfort to families and friends as that they can be part of the funeral.
Continuing to adapt to changing worldwide regulations
Constant review of repatriation regulations has become imperative as countries constantly change their regulations around transport of the deceased.
Funeral homes around the world are trying to carry their work to the best of their abilities. The most tragic consequence of this pandemic is undoubtedly the loss of so many lives, and it is especially difficult that many families do not even have the opportunity to say their goodbyes to their loved ones. The funeral industry is committed to help families and provide a dignified service to the bereaved.