S’pore Funeral Companies Lay Down Groundwork To Deal With Covid-19 Deaths

So far, no Covid-19 deaths have been reported in Singapore.

However, the Government does not think this will be the case for long, and has since started advising the public to be mentally prepared for the first fatality.

S’pore’s Health Minister Says Covid-19 Death Is Inevitable, Public Should Prepare For The Worst

Funeral companies ready to handle Covid-19 deaths

While measures such as travel restrictions, new Covid-19 test kits, and work-from-home arrangements have been implemented, these only help mitigate the spread of the virus.

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The general public doesn’t have any idea what will happen in the event of a death from Covid-19 — yet.

It turns out that morbid as it is, some funeral companies in Singapore have already prepared for that eventuality, as a recent article from TODAY Online has shed some light on how the companies have been readied to handle a Covid-19 fatality.

Strict rules in place to deal with remains

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has told TODAY Online that funeral companies have sent their staff for a basic infection-control course conducted by the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).

Only staff who have attended this course can collect the bodies of infected people, place them in a casket and transport them for cremation or burial.

Funeral staff have to undergo special training conducted by NCID
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According to a circular disseminated to funeral companies by the NEA on 7 Mar, the procedure for handling the bodies of infected patients is as follows:

  • The remains will be double-bagged by hospital employees using sealed, leak-proof heavy-duty cadaveric body bags. This applies even to the remains of suspected Covid-19 cases.
  • Religious rites can be performed by healthcare workers before the body placed in a bag, but this will take place in an isolation ward.
  • The coffin that the body is placed in must be wiped and disinfected, and this must take place only in the hospital mortuary. The coffin must also be completely airtight.
  • Spraying, washing or embalming of the body is not allowed.

As to why ritual washing and embalming are prohibited, the Ministry of Health (MOH) told TODAY Online that this is because those handling the body may come into contact with the bodily fluids of the patient. This would increase the risk of the virus spreading.

Short wakes encouraged, no contact with the body

While funeral wakes are allowed, they will be held under the condition that there is no contact with the body, the NEA said.

However, the wakes should also be brief — and ideally held within 3 days, the NEA added:

To minimise any potential risk posed by contact among large numbers of visitors during the wake, families will be advised to keep the funeral wakes short wherever possible.

They also suggested that families can hold memorial services for the deceased after the cremation or burial, for visitors may not dare to attend the wake of an infected person.

Funeral service staff equipped with protective gear

The NEA has already provided MOH with a list of funeral firms that can handle Covid-19 cases, reported TODAY Online. Information from this list will be shared with affected families by hospital staff when needed.

Staff of these approved firms will also be equipped with protective gear such as gloves and masks at work, to protect them from getting infected.

A funeral staff donning protective gear to reduce the risk of infection.
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The report also shares that funeral companies are remaining vigilant, even for non-Covid-19-related cases.

As people tend to gather at wakes, funeral companies have implemented temperature checks for visitors. They are also disinfecting their equipment and vehicles more often.

Said a manager of a funeral company interviewed by TODAY Online:

We are already well prepared. If there really is a death, we are able to handle it.

Being prepared brings about peace of mind

We’re comforted that despite there being no deaths in Singapore yet, our authorities and funeral companies have made themselves prepared for such an unfortunate circumstance.

While nothing more can be done for the dead, at least we can trust that they will know what to do to prevent the living from getting infected.

While the best-case scenario is that no deaths will occur, of course, it’s still better to have contingencies in place.

Feature image adapted from wiseGEEK.