More people shortening funerals and wakes amid Covid-19

Wakes held at void decks will have barricades to ensure visitors enter and exit at one entrance. PHOTO: ENTRUST FUNERAL SERVICE

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - When his 61-year-old father died on March 25, Mr Krishna Segar had to turn away some mourners who wanted to pay their last respects.

Some had also called to say they preferred not to come as they were afraid of going out amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Instead of a 100-strong turnout, which could have been expected, there were only about 40 people.

Mr Krishna, 31, said: "We were quite sad because my father was a nice and caring man, and we would have wanted as many people to say their goodbyes to him."

Mr Krishna's family, who decided to cut the wake short from at least three days to a day, is one of many families here having shorter wakes.

Funeral directors told The New Paper some do without a wake altogether, opting for a direct cremation instead.

Mr Elson Chong, managing director of Serenity Casket and Funerals, said most of the funerals he has taken on over the past few weeks had wakes that lasted no more than four days.

He said families expect fewer visitors and want to keep the number of visitors within the Ministry of Health guidelines.

Last Tuesday, MOH said attendance at funerals and wakes should be limited as far as possible to family members, and gatherings should be limited to 10 or fewer people at any one time.

Some families, such as Mr Krishna's, have also taken to scheduling time slots for guests to avoid congestion.

Mr Krishna said: "It's stressful because it's hard to limit the time people have at a funeral. You want to send someone off happily at their own time."

Mr Eugene Tan, funeral director at Entrust Funeral Service, said more families are opting to have the wake in a private room at a funeral parlour instead of at the void deck.

BARRICADES

He said: "We will put up barricades around the void deck so there will be only one entrance and exit for visitors, so it is easier to track them if needed."

He added that guests will have to record their temperature and fill in their details for contact tracing purposes.

Meanwhile, some families have opted to livestream the wake or funeral.

Ms Ang Jolie Mei, funeral and managing director at The Life Celebrant, said two families in the past week have opted for the service to be livestreamed so that family members who are unable to attend - those on stay-home notice or under quarantine - or are unable to fly over due to travel restrictions, will be able to participate.

Ms Ang said: "Some of them can also replay the video if they want to relive the final moments with their loved ones again.

"As a business, it's all about adapting and being flexible in these challenging times."

But Mr Zhuo Wei Jie, funeral director at New Century Funeral Services, said some traditional families may opt for having a close-knit ceremony instead of using technology.

He said: "After all, it is all about spending the last moments with your loved ones, seeing them, and talking to them for the final time. That feeling or mood may be lost if you do it over a camera."

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