Funeral rules in Russia during the coronavirus pandemic

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has spread throughout the world and has changed the way of life of many millions of people. The changes also affected Russia: a self-isolation regime was introduced throughout the country, quarantine measures were introduced restricting the movement of citizens. These have also affected such a conservative industry as funeral services.

Official restrictions in Moscow

City government of Moscow introduced tough measures to curb the spread of the disease. Muscovites are prohibited from leaving home without good reason, as well as gathering in the amount of more than 50 people. Although residents of the capital can still use funeral services to organize a funeral ceremony for their loved ones, the ritual sphere was also limited.

For older people (over the age of 65) and people with chronic diseases, a strict self-isolation regime has been introduced. The decree of the Mayor of Moscow imposes restrictions on their movement around the city. As mortal danger of coronavirus concerns the elderly and sick people mostly, they face serious difficulties in organizing a funeral and attending a funeral ceremony.

The ban on events involving more than 50 people and restrictions on movement around the city severely limited the ability of people to take part in funeral ceremonies and in mourning meals. Although a funeral is still taking place in Moscow at which relatives and friends of the deceased gather, the number of participants in funeral ceremonies has declined. In addition, cemetery employees are required to ensure that the mourners comply with the prescribed distance of 1.5 meters from each other.

Restrictions also apply to public transport. Every year, during the spring religious holidays in Moscow, additional buses start to run to the city cemeteries. In 2020, the government of the capital decided not to introduce additional routes in order to encourage citizens to refuse to visit the burial places of their loved ones and to protect themselves from the risk of catching a coronavirus infection.

The Ministry of Health also introduced special recommendations for the burial of people who died from coronavirus infection. By beginning of April, scientists and doctors so far cannot guarantee the possibility of catching a coronavirus infection from the body of the deceased. Therefore, in Russia, certain restrictions for the mourning procedure were introduced to exclude the possibility of contact between the mourners and the bodies of the deceased.

How to bury those who died because of coronavirus infection

In accordance with the recommendations of the Ministry of Health, the burial of people who died due to coronavirus should be carried out in a closed coffin. Contrary to popular belief, death from an infectious disease does not require mandatory cremation of the body, so the funeral can be traditionally held by burying a coffin in the ground. Upon receiving a place in a cemetery or organizing cremation relatives of the deceased are required to provide a copy of the medical death certificate to make sure that the person did not die because of coronavirus infection.

Morgue employees should be especially careful when opening the body of a person who has become a victim of a new disease. All personnel interacting with the body must wear masks, gloves, bathrobes and special glasses, as well as wash their hands thoroughly. An autopsy should involve only the minimum required number of specialists.

Security requirements also apply to funeral directors, including a funeral officers, coffin porters, etc. During a farewell ceremony, if during it for some reason the body rests in an open coffin, it is strictly forbidden to touch the deceased. Also, mourners, especially the elderly and chronically ill people, are not recommended to approach the deceased at a distance closer than one meter.

Protecting funeral participants from the infection

During the epidemic, specialized funeral services in Moscow city continue to operate in a normal mode. Nevertheless, in accordance with the changed epidemiological situation, the procedure for organizing the burial changed in order to face the situation.

All Moscow funeral directors are required to comply with the decree of the city government. The mandatory measures that funeral companies must carry out include: keeping social distance of 1.5 meters between the employee and the visitor, regular disinfection of premises, measurement of the body temperature of workers. As an additional measure to protect customers from coronavirus infection, the specialized Moscow city funeral service introduced the option of a remote funeral, so that all preparations are carried out without meeting with a funeral agent, visit a morgue, cemetery or crematorium.

High level epidemiological protection is introduced in morgues and mourning halls where civil funeral services take place. In accordance with the decree of the mayor, places where public meetings are held, including farewell ceremonies, must be thoroughly disinfected. Responsibility for the disinfection of the mourning hall rests with the employees of the morgue or the cemetery at which it is located. Understanding that even these measures may not be enough to protect people from being infected, funeral service provides free masks and gloves to the ceremony participants.

Although the Moscow government recommends to refrain from visiting religious rituals, serving a litia remains an imminent part of a funeral ritual for Orthodox Christians. Realizing the complexity of the current epidemiological situation, the Moscow diocese ordered the abbots of the capital's churches to conduct regular disinfection in order to reduce the risk of infection of the parishioners. In the event of holding a funeral service in the temple, also provides personal protective equipment.

The specialized Moscow city funeral director calls on Muscovites to understand the measures introduced by the Moscow government and limit the number of funeral participants to close relatives of the deceased only. With the help of the online broadcast of the funeral, gives everyone the opportunity to take part in the mourning ceremony without violating the regime of self-isolation and putting too much risk to themselves and their loved ones.

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