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With funeral services severely limited, and condolence books withdrawn for fear of infection, there has been no exceptions, even for stars of big screen.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 calls on over-60s to get second Covid booster as cases rise

As Covid cases show a significant rise in France in recent weeks, the government is calling on all eligible groups to get a second Covid vaccine booster shot.

French government calls on over-60s to get second Covid booster as cases rise

After a 40 percent rise in Covid-19 cases in the last week, the French Health ministry is calling all eligible people – including over 60s and those health conditions – to receive their second booster (fourth dose) of the vaccine.

“It is necessary to redouble our efforts to protect vulnerable people, this is done through vaccination and this campaign of second boosters is absolutely necessary,” said the ministry of health.

The Covid incidence rate is increasing in more than 50 départements across France. Currently, there are an average of 50,000 positive tests per day, which has also been accompanied by an increase in hospitalisations. 

“This is very clearly a reprisal of the epidemic linked to the arrival of new variants of the Omicron family, which are called BA4 BA5,” said infectious disease specialist Anne-Claude Crémieux to Franceinfo. Crémieux added that these variants are faster-spreading.

Therefore, the government is calling on vulnerable people to take their second booster dose (the fourth dose of the vaccine).

So far, only a quarter of eligible people have taken their second booster dose, with an average rate of 25,000 to 30,000 injections per day for the past two months.

“This is not enough, and it is not going fast enough,” urged the Ministry of Health on Tuesday.

The Haute autorité de santé also recently released its recommendation for a vaccination campaign to give a second Covid vaccine booster shot for the wider population, starting in October. 

The HAS recommendation advises starting France’s annual flu vaccine campaign in mid October (mid September for the French overseas territory of Mayotte) and combining it with a campaign to give a second Covid vaccine booster ahead of a possible new wave of Covid in the winter. 

At present although the great majority of the French adult population is vaccinated against Covid with two doses and a booster, a second booster is only recommended for people in high risk groups such as the over 60s and those with long-term health conditions.

The HAS recommendation reads: “At the end of May, the HAS recommended preparing for a booster shot campaign for people most at risk of developing the most severe forms of Covid, and envisaged a booster shot for healthcare workers.

“Those parts of the population most at risk are also those for whom the seasonal flu vaccination is recommended, therefore for logistical reasons the HAS recommends combining the two campaigns.”

The flu campaign is advised to go ahead as normal, starting in mid-October.

The HAS only makes recommendations, the details of policy are up to the government, but it usually follows HAS advice.

The usual seasonal flu campaign in France offers a vaccine for free to anyone in a high risk group, which includes the elderly, people with underling health conditions, healthcare workers and pregnant women – full details HERE on how to get the vaccine.

Those who don’t fit into those categories can still access the vaccine, but must pay for it – €6-€10 for the vaccine and the standard appointment charge to have it administered by a doctor (€25, with 70 percent reimbursed for those with a carte vitale).

The flu vaccine is available from family doctors, midwives and participating pharmacies once the campaign officially launches.

The Covid vaccine is also available from family doctors, midwives and pharmacies, but most of the vaccine centres set up in 2021 have now been closed down.

There is currently no suggestion a return of the health pass, so a second booster shot would be entirely voluntary, but the government has the power to re-introduce such measures if a major wave of Covid hits France over the autumn and winter.

Currently, there are no plans to lower the age minimum (as of now set at 60 years old) for receiving a second booster. Health authorities believe that the immune response after a first booster “continues to sufficiently protect” younger adults.