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Let bereaved families bid proper farewell to loved ones infected with Covid-19

I lost my uncle to Covid-19 during the height of the pandemic in October last year. He was 57.

Let bereaved families bid proper farewell to loved ones infected with Covid-19

As Singapore eases Covid-19 restrictions, the embalming of deceased persons infected with Covid-19 should be allowed to give families who have lost loved ones a chance to say a proper goodbye, writes a TODAY reader.

I lost my uncle to Covid-19 during the height of the pandemic in October last year. He was 57.

Before he was sent to the mortuary, he was cleansed, dressed, disinfected and double-bagged. He was subsequently placed into a casket, which was then hermetically sealed.

There was no last viewing, and I bade farewell to a casket. The farewell felt immeasurably distant. My goodbye was a disenfranchised one.

More than six months on, as Singapore eases most of its remaining Covid-19 restrictions, the multi-ministry taskforce should consider allowing families to be physically present with their loved ones who are infected with Covid-19 and are close to death.

The physical presence of their loved ones will be particularly comforting to the dying person and offers much solace to their family members.

The experience of bereavement in Singapore in relation to Covid-19 should thus be enhanced in the weeks and months ahead.

Under present National Environment Agency regulations, the embalming of deceased persons with Covid-19 infection is not permitted when the deceased is deemed to be infectious, or the deceased is deemed to be non-infectious, but the date of demise is within 28 days of the first positive test within the person’s current or latest Covid-19 infection episode.

As someone who previously worked in the funeral industry, I find that the basis by which a deceased person is “deemed to be infectious” remains unclear.

Grieving families would certainly be grateful for more clarity on this matter.

In South Korea, Covid-19 has been downgraded from the country’s riskiest category of infectious diseases as a step toward treating the virus more like the seasonal flu and putting it on par with chickenpox or measles.

Singapore should also consider doing so, which will allow bereaved families to opt for the embalming of their departed loved ones, who tested positive or whose cause of death is Covid-19, and consequently allow the viewing of their loved ones in an open casket during the duration of the funeral wake.

I did not have the opportunity to comfort and bid farewell to my uncle in his dying moments, and I hope that this is not an experience that others have had to go through.

We only have one opportunity to bid farewell.

In a post-Covid Singapore, I hope that the relevant authorities can further improve the bereavement process and experience of Singaporeans.

For bereaved Singaporeans, being able to view their loved ones as they bid farewell to them is a significant and comforting step forward in a post-Covid Singapore.

Have views on this issue or a news topic you care about? Send your letter to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

Related topics

Covid-19 death Funeral casket grief

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