Protective clothing should be worn while preparing Covid-19 victims’ remains – HSE
Family members ‘should be advised not to kiss the deceased’, new guidelines suggest
How best to pay respects to lost loved ones while also safeguarding against infection at funerals has been a topic of debate and concern in recent weeks. Photograph: iStock
Anyone washing or preparing the remains of a person who had Covid-19 is advised to wear an apron or long sleeved gown, gloves, surgical face mask and eye protection, new guidelines have set out.
Similar protective clothing is recommended for anyone handling or placing the body into the inner lining of a coffin and “consensus opinion” holds that embalming should not be carried out.
Family members “should be advised not to kiss the deceased” and to clean their hands thoroughly should they touch the remains.
The details are set out in newly-published National Interim Guidelines for Funeral Directors on Managing Infection Risks when handling deceased individuals with confirmed Covid-19.
The general principles contained in the HSE document are designed as a framework for guidance.
How best to pay respects to lost loved ones while also safeguarding against infection at funerals has been a topic of debate and concern in recent weeks.
The new document explains that bodies do not generally create a serious health hazard for Covid-19 infection and there is “no evidence so far” of transmission through the handling of remains.
However, it notes that as this is a new and emerging pathogen it is “understandable that those who will be handling the remains will be concerned”.
“It is also possible that the act of moving a recently deceased individual might be sufficient to expel a very small amount of air and viral droplets from the lungs and thereby present a minor risk.”
In terms of funeral arrangements, the document refers to Government guidance on individuals avoiding public gatherings because of the associated public infection risks.
“It is possible that close contacts of the deceased may have been exposed to Covid-19 infection through their interaction with the individual,” it says. “Where possible interactions with family members should be limited.”
It recommends that specific funeral arrangements should not be advertised in papers or online.
A suggested notice includes the wording: “A private funeral will take place due to government advice regarding public gatherings. Those who would have liked to attend the funeral, but due to current restrictions cannot, please leave a personal message [at a designated website]”.
“It is a sensible measure to suspend the use of condolence books and recommend people issue condolences through social media, online websites such as rip.ie, text or by letter. The family should be advised that they may have a Memorial Service at a later date.”
While cremation is at the discretion of family, it is not required for the purposes of infection prevention and control.