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Ministry of Health relaxes ban on viewings at funeral homes

The Ministry of Health has relaxed its ban on families viewing a body at a funeral home before burial or cremation - but there are still teething problems with the new rules.

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1 NEWS reporter Simon Mercep says the new rule still has teething problems. Source: 1 NEWS

By Simon Mercep

1 NEWS reported on Sunday that the current Alert Level 4 lockdown has a stricter rule, meaning that once a funeral director collects a body the family will not see their loved one again.

Funeral directors said they had heard from around the country that people were breaking their bubbles and gathering to view a body at home, before it was collected by a funeral director.

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On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health website shows the ban on funeral home visits has been reversed.

A range of conditions are attached to the new set of rules. Families must be from one bubble and wear masks but are not allowed to touch the body.

Funeral directors must be in the viewing room with families and also be fully vaccinated.

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New rules mean people are unable to be with family members who've died, but funeral directors say some are just ignoring restrictions. Source: 1 NEWS

Funeral Directors Association president, Gary Taylor, said that overall, the relaxed rule was a good move.

But he acknowledged that many would struggle with condition that they not touch a body, particularly for families where "their cultural background requires them to be close to and with the deceased".

"It's going to be a challenge, but I think it's a challenge that's worth taking on, rather than where we were, where they weren't allowed to be there at all," he said.

Taylor added that many funeral directors were not yet fully vaccinated and so were not in a position to carry out viewings under the new guideline.

He said the association had asked the Government over several months to give funeral directors priority for vaccinations. So far, those requests had not been agreed to.

"We've been asking for preferential vaccinations since the last lockdown, and we haven't been given this... and now funeral directors have got to be vaccinated in order to carry out these viewings," he said.

Following Wednesday's rule change to funeral home visits, the association renewed its call for members to be vaccinated as essential workers.

"We've gone back to the Government again and asked, 'look, can you get us on that priority vaccination list ... so that we're able once again to allow as many families as possible to be involved in the viewing process.'"

1 NEWS has sought a response from the Ministry of Health on the new rules, and on the vaccination priority for funeral directors.