French undertakers live streaming funerals as families told to stay away during lockdown

As families are forced to stay away from their loved ones' funerals by France's coronavirus lockdown rules, undertakers have begun setting up live video links for grieving families.

French undertakers live streaming funerals as families told to stay away during lockdown
Illustration photo: AFP

Across Europe, grieving families are having to cope with the additional trauma of draconian restrictions to stop the spread of the epidemic.

In France, children have been banned from the bedsides of their dying parents for fear of bringing the virus into nursing homes.

Mourners at funerals have also been ordered not to hug.

 As well as travel bans, France has limited the number of people allowed to attend funerals to just 20.   

“It broke our hearts, but my sister and I had to give up going to the funeral,” Parisian Emmanuelle Caradec told AFP, after her grandmother died in Nantes, 400 kilometres to the west.

“What I am going to say is terrible to hear,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said, “but we have to limit travel as much as possible even in these circumstances.

“There cannot be exceptions,” he added.

READ ALSO France's lockdown rules – your questions answered

“When you love someone, you have to stop yourself hugging them,” Philippe warned a nation where the standard greeting is a kiss on both cheeks.

“It's terrible, and counter-intuitive, but please, we have to do it.”

With funeral services severely limited, and condolence books withdrawn for fear of infection, there has been no exceptions, even for stars of big screen.

The families of actress and director Tonie Marshall and veteran French star Suzy Delair had to abandon requiem masses for them which would have drawn the cream of French cinema.

The country's large Muslim population has also been taking measures to limit the spread, with the French Muslim Council urging the faithful to limit funerals to just five people.

French funeral group AdVitam has offered to provide “free video transmission of funeral ceremonies to all families” unable to attend.

But even this cannot make up for the thwarted grieving process, experts said.

“I don't deny at all that the measures are well-founded, nor do I deny their urgency, but it is not without human consequences,” said Christian de Cacqueray, the head of France's Catholic Funeral Services.

“The trauma of certain families for whom the event will be botched will be terrible,” he added.

“For a family member or friend not being able to accompany the deceased to the end can have a lasting shock,” Marie-Frederique Bacque, a professor of psychopathology at the University of Strasbourg and author of several studies on mourning, told AFP.

The best solution is to come up with replacement rituals, she said.

“Lighting a candle is the simplest and most evocative symbol, thinking of the person you loved, putting up photos or flowers. It is the best thing to do while waiting to go to the grave later.”

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French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.