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Coronavirus victims to be immediately buried without funeral service

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Funeral directors have been advised that any person who dies of coronavirus should be immediately cremated or buried without a funeral service.

The Irish Association of Funeral Directors has distributed a list of radical recommendations in the event of Covid-19 related deaths.

Speaking last night, a senior funeral director told the Irish Independent the association advised that any coronavirus victim who dies should be promptly laid to rest and their funeral service postponed to a later date.

It also recommended that transport for families of the deceased, such as limousines and saloons, should not be provided and that funeral instructions should only be given to undertakers over the phone.

It is said that relatives of the deceased "should not be permitted to attend the funeral director's offices or funeral homes".

The deceased "should always be removed from the place of death in a body bag which is not reopened" and "removal vehicles should be hygienically cleaned after the removal of remains and all gloves and other disposable equipment should be disposed of safely," it said.

"The deceased should be removed to a designated area within the funeral directors' facilities (or those of an outsourced provider) - eg, an isolated cold room" and "the deceased should not be embalmed" but should instead "be placed in the selected coffin and the coffin closed".

Public gatherings "such as a church services, gatherings at funeral homes, residences, crematorium chapels, etc, should not take place," it said.

According to Keith Massey, from Rom Massey and Sons Funeral Directors, radical recommendations distributed by the Irish Association of Funeral Director comes as a result of the virus remaining active in a victim of Covid-19, days after they have died.

"The problem is Irish funerals occur very quickly after death, typically within three or four days and the current taking up the virus will stay with the deceased for several days afterwards," he said.

"There's often air trapped in the lungs when someone passes away. And when you move somebody that air obviously will come out there, and they're not too certain how long the virus will stay in in the lungs, and that's what that's what they're concerned about.

"So, in that case, the chance of cross infection with the staff that work with us and family members is quite high. So, the thinking is to cut out the contact between the deceased, and the living and that is what they're doing here."

Mr Massey said that all undertakers have embalmers who wear full protective gear, so "we're fairly okay" once the deceased is in a airtight bag bag, and placed straight into a coffin which is immediately is closed.

While he admitted that the recommendations were "overcautious" he said that funeral directors will have to follow the advice.

"These recommendations obviously were discussed over with various bodies with with the coroner's office and so forth and the Department of Health," he said on Today with Seán O'Rourke.

"They're very overcautious, but they are saying to bring the deceased straight to the grave site or the crematorium for a committal service.

"We don't want to be blamed for spreading the virus, because they've been lax in our procedures. So these procedures are - it's a bit like if you go to a supermarket shelf, and the sell by date the best by date has gone even though the product could be perfectly fine for two weeks afterwards - they're just being overcautious.

"We have to follow the guidelines that we're given. As things stand, these procedures have been set out in black and white for us to follow and unfortunately, we have to follow them.

"If we did everything so so well to stop the cross infection whilst they're living, do we let our guard down when they pass away."

Meanwhile, GPs have been told to consider ending "walk-in" clinics and operate an appointment-only service in light of the coronavirus threat.

Patients are now to be quizzed on whether they have respiratory symptoms. If they have they will be risk-assessed to analyse if they could have the virus and deemed suitable for a test.

It's not possible to be tested in a GP surgery and HSE public health doctors are the only ones permitted to request one. The GP's surgery should schedule for the doctor or practice nurse to call back the patient and ask them the relevant questions, according to the Irish College of General Practitioners.

If the person with acute respiratory symptoms does not fall into the high-risk category, which includes recently returning from a region such as China or northern Italy with a high concentration of cases or contact with someone who had the virus, the doctors are told to consider discussing with HSE public health staff.

This is because of the recent emergence of people who caught the virus here with no obvious source.

Family doctors will try to assess and manage more patients using the phone or smartphone video link in order to cut down on person-to-person contact and surgery visits.

GPs have been told protective clothing is of "little value if hand hygiene is not followed".

Irish Independent