Wed | Dec 6, 2023

What are the COVID-19 guidelines for funerals?

Published:Saturday | January 29, 2022 | 12:06 AM


The advent of COVID-19 and its variants to Jamaica since March 2020 has caused untold hardships to us as individuals and as a nation. Every facet of life has been upended. Each sector has suffered tremendously as restrictions have been put in place to try and curb the spread of this pandemic.

One of the hardest-hit areas have been funerals, because of the emotional distress that is associated with losing a loved one. We have gone from no burials to no funerals, 30 minutes at graveside, then to 10, 15, 20 persons only inside the building, The last statement made by the prime minister on December 7, 2021 stated that the protocol for funerals remains at 20 persons in the building, including clergy, musician, tech staff, and mourners.

Let me state that I consider this to be unrealistic. Most families easily have more than 20 persons who would want to be in attendance to pay their last respects to the loved ones. Churches also want to give their members who have served faithfully, some for years, a decent homegoing.

The church has found or created a loophole to circumvent the protocol set out by the Government. Having the body locked away in the hearse on or off the church compound while they have what they call a memorial or thanksgiving service inside the building. Then the procession moves to the burial site. Churches that choose to follow the protocol of 20 persons inside the building are considered heartless, callous, lacking in compassion, and even wicked! Families are turning against those churches, ministers side-lining ministers, and there is untold grief to everyone.

My questions in this matter are:

1. Is the Government aware of the above?

2. Is it the dead body that is the COVID-19 risk, or is it the crowd that the Government is trying to avoid?

3. When is a funeral not a funeral? Is there a legal code anywhere that states that, if the body is not in the church building, it is not a funeral that is being held?

4. Is it possible that churches could be inadvertently, or willingly, breaking the law and thus aiding and abetting the further spread of the pandemic?

This pandemic has taught us a number of lessons, one such being that the things we considered of major importance are in fact minor. We have been majoring in the minors and minoring in the majors for years. Now we have been forced to shift our focus. But some people just refuse to do so.

When one dies, it does not matter the beautiful casket, the large crowd, and all the other trappings that go with a funeral. The important thing is to know that the person’s soul is right with the Lord. Of course, we all want to do the best for our dearly departed, so what do we do?

I am beseeching the Government of Jamaica to take a look at what is happening with funerals and put in place a more realistic guideline. Weddings are being allowed 100 persons, why are they stuck on 20 for funerals?

I really hope and pray that there will be a change for the better.