Alert Level 4 guidance for funeral directors, and cultural and faith-based leaders

Alert Level 4 guidelines for funeral directors and cultural and faith-based leaders on deaths, funerals and tangihanga.

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What is not permitted at Alert Level 4

Gathering for funerals and tangihanga is not permitted at Alert Level 4. This applies to all tūpāpaku (deceased persons), regardless of the cause of death, time of death and location of the death. It includes public gatherings (both indoors and outdoors) at:

  • burials
  • cremations
  • memorial services
  • funeral wakes
  • processions
  • receptions and social gatherings.

Why public funerals and tangihanga are not permitted

Families or communities must not carry out funerals. We must protect people’s health, stop the spread of COVID-19, and ensure our health system can look after those who become sick.

Bereaved families and whānau from all cultures and backgrounds will find this time challenging. This makes it even more important to show each other kindness and caring, manaakitanga and aroha.

Handling tūpāpaku (deceased persons)

Under Alert Level 4, anybody can handle and provide services for tūpāpaku (deceased persons). This can include funeral directors, cultural or faith-based leaders, whānau and friends.

Provided this is allowed under other legislations, such as the Burials and Cremations Act 1964, this can include washing, dressing, shrouding, or otherwise preparing a body for burial or cremation.

Religious and cultural rituals must be carried out in the presence of an embalmer, who will give direction to anyone present on the correct PPE requirements. Religious rituals for this purpose may be performed at the funeral home, mosque, church, marae or other faith-based institution. No food or drink is to be served.

Storing tūpāpaku (deceased persons)

The Burial and Cremation Act 1964 requires tūpāpaku to be buried or cremated within a reasonable time. Where an Alert Level is not lowered funeral directors will need to work with family and whānau to:

  • consider what a reasonable time is
  • have agreement on the latest date for burial or cremation to take place.

Unless there are practical or cultural reasons not to do so, funeral directors may also wish to store tūpāpaku (deceased persons) until Alert Level 4 restrictions are lifted. Where storage is an option, funeral directors may want to offer families and whānau other options, such as:

  • holding the funeral or tangihanga, or a memorial service, after Alert Level 4 restrictions lift and it is safe to do so
  • live streaming or providing photos of the service and burial
  • cremation and storing ashes to be buried later.

Viewings, and religious and cultural rituals

Viewings by family and whānau, and religious and cultural rituals are permitted during Alert Level 4. Viewings must take place in a funeral home, marae, mosque, church or other faith-based institution. These viewings are limited to 10 people.

Those attending a viewing must be members of a household bubble or shared bubble arrangement.

Those attending a religious or cultural ritual should be from a single bubble, however this may not always be possible. In this case, attendees should limit themselves to no more than three people and maintain physical distancing.

Conditions to hold viewings, and religious and cultural rituals

For viewings and rituals to take place, funeral directors, or any person undertaking religious and cultural rituals must:

  • hold viewings either indoors in a single room at the funeral home, marae, mosque, church, or other faith-based institution, or outside
  • limit viewings to one hour
  • ensure those attending the viewing are from one household bubble or shared bubble arrangement
  • hold no more than one viewing – multiple viewings of the same tūpāpaku (deceased person) by different bubbles is not permitted
  • limit the number of people attending the viewing to 10 – this includes the funeral director or any employees of the funeral director
  • display a QR code or have a manual sign in register for contact tracing purposes
  • wear appropriate PPE (face coverings at a minimum), as advised by the embalmer if a ritual is taking place
  • sanitise the room and casket before and after the viewing
  • sanitise any surfaces or facilities attendees may have used, for example, door handles and toilets
  • always maintain physical distancing of two metres from those attending the viewing
  • not have symptoms of COVID-19 or be waiting for a COVID-19 test or test result
  • not be required to be in isolation or be under a Section 70 Order.
  • observe proper hand hygiene and sanitation.
  • not serve food or drink.

In addition, you must ensure those who attend a viewing:

  • wear a mask inside and maintain physical distancing from yourself, and any other staff who may be working on site
  • do not have symptoms of COVID-19
  • are not waiting for a COVID-19 test or test result
  • are not be required to be in isolation or be under a Section 70 Order.
  • observe proper hand hygiene and sanitation.

Touching tūpāpaku (deceased person)

Those attending a viewing may touch the tūpāpaku (deceased person), so long as appropriate hand hygiene protocols are followed before and after the viewing. Kissing is permitted, provided masks are not removed.

Contact tracing viewing attendees

Funeral directors, cultural and faith-based leaders, and venue owners where preparations or rituals take place, must have systems and processes in place to enable contact tracing. It is mandatory to display an official NZ Covid Tracer App QR code. As well as displaying a QR code, you must have a contact tracing register to record the details of anyone who attends a viewing. This register must include:

  • the exact day and time the viewing took place
  • full names of all viewing
  • current physical address of all viewing
  • email addresses
  • mobile numbers.

COVID-19 – Kua rāhui te motu

Management of deaths due to COVID-19

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

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