Covid-19: Orange level could make funerals harder for grieving families, directors say

Grieving families could face potentially distressing siutations under the new orange level pandemic controls.
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Grieving families could face potentially distressing siutations under the new orange level pandemic controls.

Funeral directors say the new orange level pandemic restrictions will make it harder for grieving families to organise a ceremony for their loved ones.

The new pandemic controls, which came into effect on Friday for much of New Zealand, mean families will have to choose between a funeral with no capacity limits that can only be attended by fully vaccinated people, or a service that is open to everyone but restricted to a maximum of 50 people.

Lamb & Hayward Group chief executive Stephen Parkyn said that could be a difficult decision for many grieving families.

“They may not know the vaccination status of their wider family group,’’ he said.

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STUFF
PM Jacinda Ardern announced that Auckland and some low-vaccinated regions will enter the new Covid-19 Protection Framework at the red setting, with the rest of the country doing so at the orange setting. (First published on November 20, 2021)

“That could cause quite a distressing situation if they choose a vaccine pass funeral and discover when people arrive that key family members are not vaccinated and can’t attend.

“It will further polarise the division between vaccinated and non vaccinated at a time when families have had a loss and are grieving.”

When families chose to hold an unvaccinated funeral, Parkyn said that would be treated as a private event with no public notices in order to avoid breaching the 50-person limit.

Funeral directors would have to scan vaccine passes to verify everyone attending was fully immunised for services where families chose the vaccinated option.

Families will have to decide whether to hold a vaccinated or unvaccinated funeral.
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Families will have to decide whether to hold a vaccinated or unvaccinated funeral.

Bell, Lamb and Trotter managing director Andrew Bell said the capacity limit for unvaccinated funerals would affect most ceremonies.

”The average funeral size is between 80 and 90 people,’’ he said.

“That would mean most people, if they want to have the full funeral, would choose the vaccine pass system.”

He said a new staff member would have to be employed to scan vaccine passes at vaccinated funerals.

“That is another expense that we will have to incur.”

Bell, Lamb and Trotter managing director Andrew Bell says the new system will create new challenges.
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Bell, Lamb and Trotter managing director Andrew Bell says the new system will create new challenges.

He was concerned some elderly mourners may be confused by the vaccine pass system.

“Our first funeral using the vaccine pass is on Friday. We will just have to see how it goes.”

Weddings could also be held at the new orange level under similar restrictions. They could either go ahead with no capacity limitations using the vaccine pass system or have a maximum of 50 people, depending on the size of the venue.

Wedding celebrant Julie Lassen said many marriage venues required the vaccine pass system. She said she would only lead services using the vaccine pass system.

“I think that is the right thing to do.”

She encouraged couples to plan what she called “elopement” weddings, with small guest lists. She said that saved money for couples and reduced the stress of planning for different pandemic control levels.

“It means that whatever happens you can still get married.

“It is extremely stressful when you are trying to organise a wedding and you might have to tell people they can’t come.”