COVID-19: Deaths, funerals and tangihanga

Information and guidelines for funeral directors and health practitioners on deaths, funerals and tangihanga.

Last updated: 9 September 2021

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Attending funerals or tangihanga for people staying in managed isolation or quarantine

It is unlikely you will gain approval to attend a funeral or tangihanga if you are staying in a managed isolation facility, because the public health risk is higher when multiple people get together. Consider delaying the funeral until after you have completed the 14 day isolation period.

There are no exemptions from quarantine for people with COVID-19 symptoms. More information on exemptions

Transporting deceased by air

This information is from the International Civil Aviation Organization and is for funeral directors and those wishing to transport a deceased loved one to or from New Zealand.

Cremation regulations – viewing the deceased

The Minister of Health has authorised medical referees to permit cremations to be carried out for the duration of the Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19) Notice 2020, without complying with regulation 7 of the Cremation Regulations 1973, when people have died in a rest home, residential care facility, or other long-term in-patient facility where the medical history and current conditions of the deceased are known by the medical or nurse practitioners.

Before a body can be cremated, the Cremation Regulations 1973 require the permission of a medical referee. Under regulation 7 of the Regulations, a medical referee cannot permit any cremation unless a Cremation Certificate is issued by a certifying practitioner which requires the medical or nurse practitioner to see and identify the body. This creates risks for both practitioners and facility operators to protect residents and themselves from potential infection with COVID-19.

The Minister of Health has authorised medical referees under regulation 12(b) of the Cremation Regulations 1973 to permit cremations to be carried out without complying with regulation 7 for cremations where completion of a Cremation Certificate by a certifying practitioner would increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19. This authorisation applies in rest homes, residential care facilities, and other long-term in-patient facilities where the medical history and current conditions of the deceased are known by the medical or nurse practitioner, but not to hospitals or hospices.

It is the Ministry of Health's expectation that certifying practitioners will view the deceased's body outside of the residential facility (for example at a funeral home), except where completion of a Cremation Certificate by a certifying practitioner would increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Where this is not possible, the funeral director must confirm whether there is a biomechanical aid present in the body (for example by completing the certificate developed by the New Zealand Embalmers' Association Incorporated).

Under this authorisation a medical referee must receive advice from a trusted source, who has a reasonable level of assurance of the cause of death to verify the identity of the deceased and that the deceased died of natural causes, in lieu of a certifying practitioner providing a Cremation Certificate. Certifying practitioners must provide the details of the trusted source who confirmed the identity of the deceased in writing to the medical referee. Medical referees will have discretion in determining who constitutes a trusted source but are not required to validate the credentials of a trusted source. Medical referees must check that that the identity, contact details, and position of the trusted source have been recorded. Funeral directors may collect details of the trusted source, who identifies the deceased to the funeral director, using the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand standard form.

Guidance for certifying deaths due to COVID-19

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has developed guidelines for health practitioners to use when certifying causes of death for people who died of, or with COVID-19. These guidelines are based on World Health Organization recommendations so are applicable to all countries. The guidelines can be found at Guidance for Certifying Deaths due to COVID-19.

For information about certifying documents online see Completing Death Documents.

Viewing for the purpose of coronial identification is still permitted during Alert Level 1.

Contact tracing funeral attendees

At Alert Level 1, funeral directors are not required to keep records of people who attend any part of the funeral process.

While it is not a legal requirement, people are recommended to keep a record of the places they visit. You can do this using the NZ COVID Tracer app.

At Alert level 2 and above, funeral directors must display an official NZ COVID Tracer QR code.

Funeral directors must also keep a register of all persons entering the funeral home for the purposes of any viewing or religious/cultural rituals which take place. This register should include:

  • exact day and time the viewing took place
  • full names of all viewing
  • the viewers’ current physical address, email address and mobile phone number.

If funeral directors or venue owners keep contact tracing records, they should be kept secure for two months and once they are two months old, they should be destroyed. The information in the register must only be used for the purpose of contact tracing and only shared with the Ministry of Health or district health boards, should this be required. Attendees should not have access to anyone else’s personal information.

See specific guidance at Alert Level 2 for deaths, funerals and tangihanga.


Management of deaths due to COVID-19: Information for funeral directors

Transporting deceased by air, COVID-19 information for funeral directors

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