Funeral guidelines during pandemic for funeral homes in Latin America

Protocolo de bioseguridad para funerarias latinoamericanas
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Legislation

Funeral services were qualified as “essential” from the very beginning of the pandemic due to the excess mortality resulting from covid-19. To ensure the health of funeral workers, and to prevent an increase in contagion among the relatives of the deceased, it is essential for funeral services to have some specific funeral guidelines during pandemic.

Health and safety policy: what is it?

The health and safety policy involves the set of rules and recommendations for the preparation, transfer, burial and cremation of the deceased by covid-19. It also includes the occupational risk prevention measures for funeral home workers, as well as the type of ceremony and the permitted capacities according to each country’s legislation.

Most funeral guidelines during pandemic stipulate that the covid deceased must be transferred in airtight bags directly to the funeral homes. Handling of the body is normally not permitted and in cases where the body can be wrapped, the coffin must be sealed. The protocol for funerals also establishes a maximum capacity of attendees, who must wear masks and respect the safety distance.

Funeral guidelines during pandemic by country

Argentina

– The funeral guidelines during pandemic in Argentina stipulates that the coffin must be kept closed at the wake. There is no maximum capacity as long as 2 metres of interpersonal distance is maintained and masks are obligatory.

– No embalming manoeuvres or other manipulations may be carried out on the corpse.

– The funeral procession is prohibited.

– More information: Protocol for Funeral Services, Burials and Cremations of deceased people for any cause, except COVID-19 (21/09/2020)

Brazil

– According to the funeral guidelines during pandemic in Brazil, covid deceased may be buried or cremated, but funerals and cremations of confirmed or suspected patients are not recommended.

– The coffin should be closed during the wake, preferably in ventilated and/or open places. Less than 10 attendants are recommended, with a distance of two metres and a mask.

– Autopsies are not recommended.

– More information: Manejo de corpos no contexto da doença causada pelo coronavírus Sars-CoV-2 Covid-19 (November 2020)

Bolivia

– Funerals are not allowed and treatment of the corpse is not recommended due to high risk of infection.

– Most funeral homes in the country are applying the protocols of other countries or the recommendations of international organisations.

– The lack of funeral guidelines during pandemic led to the abandonment of corpses in the streets during the summer of last year, so funeral home operators had to resort to portable crematoria.

Chile

– In the case of death of a person due to causes other than Covid-19, an overnight wake and subsequent funeral are authorised.

– In the case of death due to Covid-19 or suspected Covid-19 causes, the wake and funeral are authorised to last a maximum of 2 hours.

– The wake may only be attended by up to 20 relatives or people close to the deceased with one metre of distance and a mask.

– More information: Funeral Protocol – Official Gazette of the Republic of Chile (25/08/2020)

Colombia

– No wake is allowed for deaths caused by covid. If the death is due to another cause, the number of people is limited to 5 to 8 people per room.

– Funeral homes must have all the funeral guidelines during pandemic in place. Upon entering the funeral home, the temperature is taken and the disinfection process is carried out, and the use of a mask is obligatory.

– Cremation of the deceased by covid is mandatory.

– More information: Protocol for the transfer of the deceased and operation of cemeteries and funeral homes in Bogotá (9/11/2020).

Costa Rica

– Funeral homes must have a capacity of 50%.

– The coffin must be sealed and it is recommended that only the relatives of the deceased attend.

– The burial must take place within 24 hours of the time of death.

– More information: National Guidelines for the Handling and Final Disposal of Dead Bodies with Diagnosis and Suspicion of COVID-19 (14/08/2020).

Ecuador

– Ecuador’s funeral guideline during pandemic prohibits funeral wakes for covid deceased.

– Autopsies are not recommended, except in the case of violent deaths.

– Relatives can decide whether to proceed with cremation or burial. In the case of burial, the coffin must be properly sealed.

– More information: Government of Ecuador – Handling and final disposition of corpses with antecedent and presumption COVID-19

El Salvador

– No autopsies or treatment of the corpse is permitted, except by court order.

– Family members decide whether to proceed with burial or cremation.

– Funeral rituals, vigils, religious acts or opening the coffin are prohibited.

– More information: Ministry of Health El Salvador: Technical Guidelines for the Management and Disposal of Dead Bodies of COVID-19 Cases (May 2020)

Guatemala

– The funeral must take place immediately after death in cases of death by covid.

– Wakes and religious ceremonies are prohibited. A maximum of 10 people may attend the burial.

– Access to cemeteries is forbidden to people over 60 years of age, children, pregnant women and people at risk.

Honduras

– No cleaning, hygienic interventions or aesthetic care of the corpse should be carried out.

– A wake service may be offered for the deceased, but this will be with the coffin closed, containing the body in a waterproof bag.

– The final destination may be burial or cremation, under the usual conditions.

– More information: Honduran Ministry of Health. Guidelines for the management of dead bodies for covid-19 cases

Mexico

– The funeral guidelines during pandemic in Mexico set the maximum duration of any funeral service at 2 hours.

– The capacity is limited to 1 person per 5 square meters.

– The service must be performed with the coffin closed.

– No thanaesthetic services must be applied to the corpse.

– More information: Protocol for funeral home services by covid-19 of the State of Sonora.

Nicaragua

– Immediate burial of any suspected covid victim. No wake or funeral is allowed.

– Thanatopraxy or temporary preservation of corpses is prohibited.

Panama

– Autopsies of dead bodies of people suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 are not recommended due to the possibility of aerosol generation.

– Transportation, cremation, or burial, as appropriate, should be carried out as quickly as possible, in order to prevent exposure of workers and the general community to the COVID-19 virus.

– A wake service for the deceased is permitted, but the coffin should be kept closed at all times.

– More information: Ministry of Health Republic of Panama. Guidelines for the management of dead bodies with suspected or confirmed covid-19 in health facilities and funeral homes/funeral homes.

Paraguay

– The final destination may be burial or cremation.

– In the case of mass burials, mass graves may be used.

– Wakes may be held with a maximum attendance of 12 people.

Peru

– According to the funeral guidelines during pandemic in Peru, only 2 family members may attend the cremation process to collect the ashes. On the other hand, in the case of burial (in the ground or in a niche), 5 family members may attend and must follow the instructions of the health staff.

– Attendants must wear masks, respect the obligatory social distance of at least 1 metre between attendants, use hand sanitizers, avoid greetings and do not approach the bag, coffin or casket with impenetrable closure, which will always be handled by the specialists, who will wear protective equipment.

– Wakes and other farewell ceremonies are prohibited.

– More information: Government of Peru: how to arrange burial of a family member

Dominican Republic

– The burial or cremation must take place immediately after the death of the covid victim.

– Wakes are not permitted.

Uruguay

– In Uruguay, the wake, if held, must be held in a closed casket in order to avoid contact with the corpse, with a maximum of five people in the room, according to funeral guidelines during pandemic in this country.

– A social distance of at least 2 metres between people should be ensured.

– Autopsies are not advisable.

– More information: Recommendations of the Ministry of Public Health for the management of dead bodies of COVID-19 cases.

Venezuela

– The “Protocol for Farewells” of the National Chamber of Funeral Homes and Related Companies allows ceremonies and wakes to be held with a maximum of 13 people per room. The use of masks and gloves is obligatory during the stay in the facilities, which shall not exceed two hours.

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