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Black Country funeral directors reveal how they are coping amid coronavirus pandemic

By Jamie Brassington | Coronavirus | Published:

From dealing with coronavirus deaths to a shortage of protective clothing - funeral directors have revealed how they are coping during the pandemic.

Funeral directors speak about challenges they face

Strict measures have been put in place on funerals which is restricting how these services operate.

Companies have been forced to bring in procedures limiting contact with customers, while the Government has restricted funeral gatherings to close family members.

Funeral services are considered key services by the Government which is why they have been allowed to stay open during the lock down.

But funeral directors are having to adjust their daily operations to cope with life amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

"It has been something of a moving target over the past week, with tighter and tighter restrictions, both from Government, and a lot of crematoriums and cemeteries have different councils," said Jeremy Hodges, director at A&A Walters Funeral Directors, which has branches in Tipton, Bilston and Sedgley.

"Our building is in lock down and only families that need to come in to speak face to face are doing so - by appointment only. We are arranging funerals over the phone."

But he added: "We are fine, we have got lots of procedures in place to protect staff and also the general public."

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The Black Country has become a hotspot for coronavirus cases outside London, with at least 28 people now dying after testing positive.

Asked if demand for funerals has increased during the pandemic, he said: "It is difficult to say at this stage.

"We have dealt with a number of suspected coronavirus cases but there is a limitation to the testing going on.

Difficult

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"It has been difficult to determine, when we have gone to care homes and hospitals, whether or not people have had Covid-19."

Although funeral gatherings have been limited to close family members, there is no set number. He added. "Some family are small while others are large."

Another issue facing funeral companies is getting access to protective clothing, such as masks. This has followed huge demand for these type of products from the general public.

Neil Roberts, director at J Freeman & Son Ltd Funeral Directors, based in Netherton, said: "The trouble is, it is hard to come by these things. It is taking about a month for delivery.

"We have had to source our gear from other places as our usual suppliers have sold out. The protective gear is not just for funerals. People are buying masks who wouldn't normally do so."

Arranging funerals over the phone seems to be the norm now. So too is for funeral directors' staff to remain outside chapels as funerals take place.

These measures are being used in a bid to stop the further spreading of Covid-19.

Lucy Porter, director at H Porter & Sons in Stourbridge, said: "We haven't had any coronavirus cases yet but we're ready and have been preparing our team, ensuring we have the protective equipment and risk management procedures in place to keep our staff and clients safe.

"Whilst the official advice is that the infection risk from handling the body of someone who has died from Covid-19 is low, we're mindful that people who have come into contact with the deceased might be carriers so are wearing protective clothing when carrying out removals, to be on the safe side. "

Meanwhile, new safety measures have been brought in by the Co-op for its funerals.

These measures include: a maximum of 10 mourners per funeral; free webcasting; 10 minute intervals between services for tidying and the use of wheeled trolleys for carrying coffins.

Hazel Moss, head of the Co-op's funeral department, said: "We will continue to monitor the situation with a view to taking all appropriate steps to minimise risk to our colleagues, all funeral directors and their teams and all mourners and the public while maintaining the highest standard of service possible."

Jamie Brassington

By Jamie Brassington
Senior Multi-Media Journalist - @JamieB_Star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star. Contact me at jamie.brassington@expressandstar.co.uk.

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