What to Expect from Your Buddhist Funeral Services Director During the Covid-19 Period in Singapore?
COVID-19 has changed our lives in many ways. Likewise for funerals today, there are new restrictions for us to comply with. In this article, we will discuss the matter in two areas. Firstly, what to do when a loved one passed away due to COVID-19 while the closed family members are in quarantine orders. Secondly, the things to observe when visiting a funeral wake during this period.
Arranging Buddhist Funeral Services for a Departed Covid-19 Patient
When a loved one passed away due to COVID-19, the next step is to find a Buddhist funeral services company. Tell them about your situation and ask them if their company has undertakers that are qualified to handle deceased COVID-19 patients.
Only qualified undertakers are allowed to carry out funeral services for COVID-19 patients. They must wear full protective gear and an N95 mask throughout the entire funeral process. Funeral workers need to do ART testing each morning to ensure that they are free from COVID-19 and are feeling well to work. The casket, vehicle, wake venue, must constantly be cleaned and disinfected.
The qualified funeral director will then ask to arrange a meeting to find out more information about the deceased. If you are under quarantine orders, the meeting will be arranged via Zoom.
During the meeting, the funeral director will explain the procedure of the funeral to the family members. As family members are not allowed to see their loved ones when they passed away due to COVID-19, the transfer and handling of the deceased body at the mortuary, will then be the responsibility of the licensed undertaker.
A deceased COVID-19 patient will be wrapped in a double body bag by the hospital staff. There will be no undressing or embalming for the departed COVID-19 patients. The body will then be carried into a no-window coffin, which will be fully sealed thereafter. The disinfection process must be consistently carried out from the mortuary to either the wake, or the crematorium.
At the Zoom meeting, the family members must let the funeral director know whether to bring the coffin from the mortuary to the wake; or send it to the crematorium for cremation first, then do the funeral thereafter.
If the first option is selected, the wake period must not be more than three days. Safe distancing measures from an individual to the coffin must be at least 2m apart. Representatives from the Ministry of Health or National Environmental Agency (NEA) may come on a regular basis to check if the safe distancing rules are strictly followed.
If the second option is selected, the funeral can be held up to 7 days after death. Prior written permission from NEA is required if the wake extends to more than 7 days after death. However, in Buddhist funeral practice, the typical number of days is between 3 and 5 days. So that the Buddhist funeral director can organise an An-Ling prayer ceremony at the columbarium on the first 7th day (头七) after death.
COVID-19 Restrictions for Funerals (as at Nov 22 2021, Transition Phase)
Funerals can allow up to 30 people at any time. This also applies to the installation of niches, and post-funeral rites such as Ji-Ling.
Family members who are tested positive for COVID-19 and in quarantine orders, are not allowed to enter the funeral annex. They can ask their relatives to help at the funeral.
If there are groups of people gathering in one seating, the group must not have more than 5 people. And they cannot mingle between groups.
The limit of 30 funeral attendees excludes the religious workers and support staff of the funeral. However, the numbers should be kept at minimum as well.
Buddhist priests are allowed to do their tasks such as the chanting of Buddhist sutras. However, they must always wear their masks. Others should keep at least a 1m safe distancing apart from them when they are chanting.
There can also be playing of musical instruments at the funeral; but strictly no singing, dancing, or playing wind (brass) instruments.
There must not be any food catering reception at the funeral. However, family members who are tending the funeral are allowed to consume packet food within the annex area. However, they should not interact with the guests while consuming the food.
Safe distancing measures must always be observed and practiced, and everybody needs to wear a face mask while inside the annex.
Since Aug 19, 2021, temperature screening is no longer required at the funeral. However, if a person is feeling unwell, we should kindly turn them away.
For vulnerable elderly with underly medical conditions, it is advisable for them, not to visit the funeral as they may risk themselves getting infected. They can view the funeral ceremony via Zoom or other live feed platforms instead.
During the funeral possession day, there will be no hearse escort party, as this is to avoid crowding at the public places outside the annex.
Funeral visitors must scan the SafeEntry via their TraceTogether app or token. It is also advisable not to stay too long at the funeral. Just be there, pay your respect to the deceased, keep interaction to the minimum, and that’s it.
Do Our Part to Eliminate COVID-19 in Singapore and Around the World
We encourage the public to heed our government’s advice in taking up vaccination to protect you and your family. For the family members of the COVID-19 departed, it is a difficult and painful period for them to grieve.
It is because they are not able to see the last moments of their loved ones. Most of them could only see via video calls assisted by the frontline nurses at the hospitals. In Buddhism, every living being is connected to one another. Hence, by keeping yourself protected from COVID-19, you are also protecting others; which in effect lessens the workload of the frontline staff; and thereby lessens the workload of the funeral industry workers.
When the world is rid of the COVID-19, and everything is back to normal. Then, when the time comes for us to grieve and send our newly departed loved ones off, we can be there by their side till their last breath; and more family and relatives can give them a proper send-off with no restriction. Amitabha.
About Nirvana Singapore
Being one of the largest columbaria in Singapore, we provide a conducive and comfortable environment for family members to visit their dearly departed. We also conduct Buddhist funeral services in Singapore.