Safety solidarity in Covid-19 lockdown

29 April 2020

Undertakers unable to get hold of protective equipment and clothing during the lockdown have been helped out in an unusual show of solidarity.

Masks have been provided by laid-off builders and clothing has come from school canteens.

Funeral directors have been facing strict new regulations during the coronavirus crisis and have been struggling to cope.

The profession was listed as a priority for protective equipment at the end of March but by mid-April, industry representatives said businesses could not access enough safety equipment to cope.

Special regulations have been laid down by the government for dealing with people who have died, or are suspected of having died, of the virus.

These include putting bodies in sealed bags as quickly as possible, not allowing the usual washing and application of make-up, and having bodies placed in sealed coffins at the place of death.

Pacemakers, or other implants using batteries, must still be removed by doctors before this is done.

Richard Feret, acting managing director of the Confédération des Pompes Funèbres, the largest trade body for the profession, said: “It is the major cause of stress for our members at this time.

“Luckily, chains of solidarity have come into place and our members have received masks from builders who are not able to do work, for example. We have been given hair coverings and over-blouses from school canteen kitchens which have shut down.

“They have also been able to swap equipment among themselves when one business is running short but another still has some.”

Regional authorities in charge of distributing protective equipment are slowly increasing supplies to funeral homes.

Mr Feret said another problem faced by funeral homes was the lack of co-operation from mairies.

“In France, when someone dies, there is a lot of administration and formalities which have to be completed, with the mairies being the key contact point,” he told Connexion.

“With the coronavirus, most of the procedures have been moved online by the government, which has had very good communication with us, but the message has not got through to some mairies.

“We are left with situations which cause problems – such as cemeteries being locked shut in the afternoons when funerals are due to take place.”

He said small rural mairies were not the worst offenders, because their limited opening hours meant they already had procedures to supply contact numbers and help outside hours.

“I would say that towns of several thousand people who would normally have a full-time mairie have given the most problems during this time,” he said.

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