Funeral directors rap prime minister

MANDEVILLE, Manchester – Government’s continued ban on funerals while allowing memorial services in churches has drawn protests from funeral directors who have questioned the logic of the measure.

President of the Jamaica Association of Certified Embalmers and Funeral Directors Calvin Lyn said the Government’s decision is a “double standard”.

“They believe they know it all; they are the Government and they just dictate to people and have no dialogue, to my knowledge, with people who can assist them,” he told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“…What is the difference between a memorial service and a funeral service? It is just semantics,” he added.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, addressing the House of Representatives on Tuesday, sought to clarify the reason for allowing memorial services, but not funeral services.

“There appears to be some confusion around this. What this means is that services with the mortal remains being present are not permitted,” said Holness. The DRMA (Disaster Risk Management Act) considers a worship service to be a funeral if the body of the deceased is in the church, otherwise a gathering in a church is considered as a normal worship service. You may term it a memorial service, a celebration of life or whatever you would want to term it,” he added.

He said, “It is possible to have a service in honour of the deceased, but in keeping with the measures that govern normal worship services.”

This means people can be physically present to facilitate worship or electronic broadcast, including officiating clergy and technical support personnel, with the limit being increased from 30 to 50 people, effective today.

He said the emotional impact of seeing the deceased evokes “a behaviour”, and based on public health reasons the Government made its decision.

Meanwhile, the existing maximum of 15 people – mourners, undertakers, and clergy – remains for burials, which are limited to 30 minutes on weekdays between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm.

“We have had to maintain this protocol as it is because when we have analysed the behaviour of the public in this activity, we see a very low level of adherence and compliance with the protocols. It is still a very risky activity,” said Holness.

However, Lyn said it is unfair to allow memorials, but not funeral services.

“It is not only unfair to the members (funeral directors); it is unfair to the families who organise the funerals. We go on the instruction of the relatives [and] abide by the Government rules,” said Lyn.

“Can you define and differentiate a memorial service from a funeral service? Most people just say thanksgiving service. They don’t even use the word funeral service anymore, very seldom,” added Lyn.

“These words, used in the way they are used, are just to fool the public at large,” said Lyn.

“When you say things they are going to say you want COVID to take over and yet still look at what happened at Rick’s Caf. They are double standards. They have their people who they let through the gate and then they clamp down on the others,” he added.

Paul Patmore, director of Patmore’s Funeral Home in Lowe River, Trelawny, said he was surprised at the prime minister’s pronouncement.

“It was surprising to hear him (Holness) say that, but I don’t know why just the absence of the body makes a difference. Why couldn’t we just have 30 people in the church with the body then?” Patmore asked.

“The body itself doesn’t carry corona, so I don’t know why he would not want the body to be there. I just don’t see the understanding of that. People will be in the church just the same. All that will be absent is just the dead body,” he added.

Joseph Cornwall, managing director of House of Tranquility funeral home in the Corporate Area, is of a different view.

“I’m not sure what decision or advice there is given, but whatever it is we welcome it, because families now can actually have a memorial and then a burial after. It is not a hundred per cent ideal, but I’m sure it is acceptable for the time being,” said Cornwall.

“At least the family could have a memorial service and then a burial after with the limited amount,” he added.

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