Gov't gives green light for funeral services; maximum 15 allowed

Gov't gives green light for funeral services; maximum 15 allowed

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywilisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness yesterday said numerous appeals from grieving families were the reason for the Cabinet's decision to now allow churches to resume holding “small funerals” for persons who have died, for one month initially.

Prior to now, funeral services at churches had been discontinued with the arrangement being that bodies would be transported from funeral homes to the burial place. Announcing the continuing measures yesterday during the sitting of the House of Representatives in downtown Kingston Holness said a total 15 persons can now be present at a funeral service.

Of this number no more than 10 can be family members while the remaining five will be members of the clergy performing the service.

“We are not allowing mass open-ended funerals regardless of how large the church is; the same rules that apply in the church (for the funeral service) applies at the graveside,” he said.

“We decided we would do this because there are many cases of persons would have spent their lives in the church and many of them would have built the church but when the last rites are to be administered they cannot be brought back to the sanctuary. It [funeral service] is for the living that is hurting more than the dead that has departed but the family of the departed. Many of them have reached out to me; I have many letters on my desk of families asking for exemptions and we could not give them exemptions,” Holness told Parliament.

“There can be no gathering in the church of funeral services of more than 15 persons; that is the allowance we are going to make,” the prime minister said. He said the success or failure of the measure would be assessed after a month and a decision taken as to whether it would be discontinued or sustained.

In the meantime, he expressed concern about various videos he has seen of funerals at gravesides “where hundreds are there”.

He said members of the security forces have said while they have had to shut down burials they have been posing a challenge for them to monitor all effectively, especially in rural areas.

As to the rationale for not restricting regular church services in the same way, Holness said, responding to Opposition Leader Mark Golding, “we considered it carefully, we don't just make decisions based on pure emotion; the funerals are usually attended by persons who are not necessarily and in large part members of the church, so the level of control of the congregation would be quite different”.

“Our very first case [of COVID-19], if you study the circumstances around that it, was the hugging and the crying and the embracing and sometimes Pastor can't control persons who come in who are not a part of their congregation. There is a real distinction between a funeral service and regular church service; there is public health science behind the distinction,” the prime minister said,

Based on information received from the Ministry of Health, Jamaica up to yesterday recorded 15,153 cumulative cases of confirmed coronavirus infection with 141 over that 24-hour period and 339 COVID-19-related deaths. There were some 2,725 active cases with 11,911 recoveries.

As of yesterday 99 people were hospitalised with 11 critically ill, 11 quarantined in government facilities and more than 21,488 quarantined at home.


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