Wed | Mar 3, 2021

Funeral spreaders - Don’t let one burial cause many, warns health inspector

Published:Monday | February 15, 2021 | 12:16 AMRasbert Turner/Gleaner Writer
St Catherine Chief Public Health Inspector Grayson Hutchinson.
St Catherine Chief Public Health Inspector Grayson Hutchinson.
Telbert Roberts.
Telbert Roberts.

Funeral directors came in for sharp criticism at last Thursday’s meeting of the St Catherine Municipal Corporation as the health authorities accused them of being negligent in the fight against COVID-19.

St Catherine Chief Public Health Inspector Grayson Hutchinson called for more vigilance in tackling the virus as the island experiences a surge in cases, which has also been taking a toll on the parish.

“We have noticed that persons are using funeral parlours to convene funerals. We are aware that these spaces are small. Therefore, the virus will spread rapidly, so we are just asking that we all observe the protocol,” Hutchinson appealed.

He called on funeral directors to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are observed even as people mourn their loved ones.

“Just remember that it was reported that our first case of COVID-19 was said to have started at a funeral service. Therefore, it means we must be careful not to cause more funerals. It’s a serious pandemic,” the chief public health inspector said, adding that the restrictions on the number of mourners allowed at funerals were also being violated.


Reacting Friday to the revelation by the chief public health inspector, Telbert Roberts, a senior director of Roberts Funeral Home in Linstead, St Catherine, told The Gleaner that breaches of COVID-19 regulations could threaten the sector.

“If the system says 10 persons, then I can’t see how 11 must come, let alone dozens of persons as has been reported. This is a serious breach, which can lead to a shutdown of the industry,” Roberts said.

He stressed that it will take hard work and dedication to fight the pandemic.

“The practice must not be encouraged. In fact, it must be addressed. The actions can only be seen as you are paying me to kill me as the virus can kill. There needs to be strict regulations and accountability for funeral homes, so it means that the Government needs to regulate and operators will have comply,” said Roberts, the public relations officer for the Jamaica Association of Certified Embalmers and Funeral Home Directors.

As at Tuesday, February 10, St Catherine had recorded 3,739 cases of the virus since March 2020. Of this number, Hutchinson said there are 386 active cases.

“What it means is that there are 386 positive cases in St Catherine within the last 14 days, and we must take it very seriously. What we find is that persons are not doing all they should to protect themselves and that must change to control the spread,” he told councillors.

Hutchinson pointed to the Old Capital (Spanish Town proper) and Old Harbour Road as areas of concern which will be given renewed attention.

The councillors were called upon to help educate their constituents about the serious nature of the pandemic.