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Some funeral homes ‘embalming Covid cases and allowing open coffin viewings’

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A small number of funeral homes have been breaching HSE guidelines by embalming people who died from Covid-19 and allowing an open coffin at wakes, it has emerged.

The Irish Association of Funeral Directors (IAFD) sent out an alert reminding its members to abide by the rules given the increased number of deaths from Covid-19.

In an email to members, president Donal Forde said: “It has come to the attention of the IAFD that some members have not been following these guidelines and that embalming of Covid-19 cases has taken place and viewings have been facilitated.

“I am appealing to all of our members to consider their own safety and that of their staff and clients and to always follow the HSE guidelines. I remind our members that to not follow these guidelines is in breach of the IAFD code of practice, which all members have committed to follow”.

A funeral director - who wishes to remain anonymous - said it is “extremely unfair” on the people who didn’t get to see their family members one last time.

“This is a really difficult time for everyone but this will put other people at risk and it is upsetting for those who didn’t get to say a proper goodbye,” they said.

Under HSE guidelines, people who die from Covid-19 must be placed in a sealed coffin and it must not be reopened.

The IAFD states: “While these guidelines may seem harsh and may add to the distress of the bereaved family, it is important to remember that they are there to protect everyone involved – including the bereaved family.”

This week Ireland reached a sad milestone after the Covid-19 death toll passed the 3,000 mark.

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“Viewing of the deceased should not be facilitated under any circumstances – placing a photograph of the deceased person on the closed coffin can help alleviate the distress that this may cause.”

The Irish Independent contacted the IAFD for comment.

The Government yesterday warned how large gatherings at funeral homes and funeral services were a cause for concern.

It followed gardaí having to intervene at a gathering of up to 200 people at a house in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford following a funeral on Monday.

“Gardaí attended the incident and a number of persons were identified to be in breach of the Health Act,” a garda spokesperson told the Irish Independent.

“A file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.”


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