The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 is undoubtedly one of the most severe pandemics of the modern world. Many sectors of the world’s economy have been hard hit, and everyone’s lives have been affected by new arrangements like mask-wearing, social distancing, and gathering restrictions. But one thing that will never change is death.
Funerals and wakes must still go on, but in a different way, now that gathering sizes must be limited. Even as people try their best to respect tradition, some things must be adjusted to minimize further spread of the disease. How have funerals and wakes in Singapore adapted to the new normal? Here’s a quick guide:
1. Reduced visitor count at wakes and funerals
Under normal circumstances, expecting many people at a funeral is normal. Having many people attend a funeral is seen as an honourable thing, as it means the deceased had a wide network and influence. However, big crowds are now not allowed, forcing people to limit their visitors to 30 persons or fewer at any one time.
Amongst these 30 or fewer people, there also needs to be a safe distance of 1 metre between individuals, or groups of no more than 5 persons. As such, funeral service planners also need to take into consideration the arrangement of tables and seats to adhere to these regulations.
2. Virtual funerals
Due to the limitations at wakes and funerals, another arrangement that is picking up is virtual funerals. In the past, this is almost unheard of. But today, it is sometimes the only way that family members and friends from overseas can take part in the wake and send their condolences.
As elderly persons are also advised to stay away from large gatherings, more people are also seeking livestreaming arrangements to let elderly relatives witness funerals from their home. When it comes to memorial services, families are also increasingly opting for virtual events rather than in-person ones.
3. Funerals and wakes with a twist
A big part of many funerals, including Buddhist funerals, are the prayers, live performances, and music. Unfortunately, that will have to take a back seat for funerals during this time, as live bands, live music, live singing, and hearse escort parties are prohibited.
While that may dampen some send-offs, people are creatively turning to other options like video and audio recordings for music and performances.
4. Special treatment for Covid-19 deaths
Not everyone will be aware of this, but the treatment for individuals who have died from infectious diseases – including Covid-19 – is done slightly differently than normal. While families can still choose between cremation or burial for the deceased, healthcare workers and funeral parlours need to take extra precautions when handling the body.
Procedures include double-bagging the body before placing it in an airtight coffin, and allowing only funeral parlours which have undergone the basic infection control course by the National Centre for Infectious Diseases to handle the body.
The pandemic has significantly affected how we carry out our activities, from the day-to-day ones, to matters of death. It remains to be seen if this will be a significant shift for death traditions as a whole, such as the popularisation of virtual funerals.
Regardless, it is important to understand how funeral companies are doing their part to keep funeral attendees and their staff safe amidst this pandemic. You can speak to us at 1Stop Buddhist Funeral Services to enquire about our alternative arrangements and recommendations for funerals during this time.