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Coronavirus Kent: Funeral directors say they are starting to feel the impact of Covid-19

With the number of coronavirus deaths in Kent now reaching at least 108, funeral directors in the county say Covid-19 is starting to have a real impact on business.

One funeral director confirmed six deaths related to the disease were registered at its Bearsted office in just one week.

Funeral directors have seen an increase in business
Funeral directors have seen an increase in business

All the patients are believed to have been over 70.

Michael Lawrence, the managing director at Family Funeral Service, which has six offices across the county, said: "We've been anticipating that something would happen soon and now we’re starting to see the impact of the virus.

"The week before last there wasn’t any hint of it, but that all changed last Monday.”

Coronavirus also means undertakers have had to make changes to the services they offer.

Rafael Learmonth owns Angels Family Funerals in Heath Road, Coxheath. He said: “We have had to put a stop to the limousine service we usually offer because it puts too many people at risk.

Rafael Learmonth from Angels Family Funerals in Coxheath
Rafael Learmonth from Angels Family Funerals in Coxheath

“We’re having to do all our arrangements over the phone to reduce contact and we’ve also had to get new masks and suits.

“The regular ones we would normally use aren’t good enough to deal with the virus and we have to make sure we are fully protected.

“Unfortunately we have also had to stop viewings in our Chapel of Rest. Those who want to see their loved ones are no longer able to do that anywhere so the virus is having a real impact.”

Nick Hardy, is a director at Woollard and Kent Funeral Service which has offices in Whitstable and Canterbury.

He said: "On the advice given by Public Health England, a body can remain infectious for about four days.

"This is why personal protective equipment (PPE) has become so important for us too.

"But the biggest change of all is not being able to have face-to-face contact with people which is really hard for families.

"People are opting to have services live streamed which is something that's been around for a while but is now being used a lot more.

"The cost of the recordings have been reduced by a lot of crematoria to encourage people to use it in the current circumstances.

"Unfortunately we've already competed two services related to the virus and have another two to go."

Jo Williamson from Albany Funerals in Ashford and Maidstone
Jo Williamson from Albany Funerals in Ashford and Maidstone

Jo Williamson, the owner of Albany Funerals in Great Chart in Ashford and Loose in Maidstone, says she has taken more drastic measures opting to suspend all services on safety grounds.

She said: “In spite of the government guidelines, we feel it isn’t safe to carry on booking funerals.

“We are honouring those already arranged, but we’ve stopped all attended funerals until further notice.

"This goes against everything we stand for but we feel it’s necessary to keep people safe.

“It just so strange that people are being told to stay at home except if they need to go to a funeral.

“Even with the limit of 10 guests, hundreds of people are going through the crematoria each day. They’re sitting on the same seats and putting their hands on chairs where someone else was sat so we felt it wasn’t right to continue.”

Mrs Williamson added: “We've had six coronavirus deaths registered across both our offices.

"Instead of telling people all the things they can’t do, we want to take a slightly different approach and give people other options.

“A lot of families have decided to come back and hold a service later on in the year which can be really healing.

“For those who still want a memorial, some of our celebrants are now offering over the phone services and even live streams which have been really popular.

“Some families have opted to light a candle in their homes and have friends join in through video links.

“Now is not the only time people have to say goodbye, they can do that in so many different ways.”

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

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