"The professional training and qualification of employees is a fundamental condition to face any crisis, at the health or social level "

Funermostra habla Paulo Moniz Carreira, general director of business of Servilusa - Funeral Agencies and president of the Portuguese Association of Professionals of the Funeral sector, which reflects on the advancement of the sector and the need for administrations to accept that funeral homes are an integral part of the health chain.

1. How can I summarize in a few words the response that the covid-19 health crisis has given to the sector?

It is an extraordinary situation that none of the current generations have experienced until today and, Thus, we all had to learn quickly and adapt as new difficulties arise.

The funeral industry is an essential activity, part of the country's health chain, so your preparation and professionalism are essential to respond to crisis situations like this.

In Portugal, despite the continued growth of Covid-19 cases, the number of deaths for this reason is still very low, which allowed maintaining the logistical control of the funerals. Here, ceremonies are very fast rituals that last between 36 and 48 hours after death.

Funeral homes had to adapt to provide a safe response to families, respecting the rules and limits imposed by the health authorities, and the main concern was to create ideal and feasible conditions among the family, since it is where there was a greater risk of contagion.

Although it is not always recognized by the general public, funeral homes deserve everyone's respect for the work they do in these difficult conditions, taking into account the important mission with families.

2. Do you think the media have reported exactly on the sector? Do you think that society has treated all professionals fairly?

Being a totally new crisis and unknown to all, moved a large amount of daily information in all parts of the world. I think in this context it is difficult to create fair ideas about this or any other sector. There was a lot of speculation, lots of misinformation and lots of data that required careful selection. Hospitals themselves interpreted national and international guidelines differently, creating greater insecurity for professionals in our sector.

All funeral homes, like any other business, they should know how to manage reliable information and know how to choose the right sources, giving preference to health authorities and official reports and knowing how to manage their activity, providing the best security service for your employees and families.

3. What three conclusions would you draw from the situation experienced during the Covid-19 crisis in the sector?

Contingency plans are a reality that any funeral home should always keep in mind, especially when we are not sure of the deceased's causes of death. Professional training and qualification of employees is a fundamental condition to face any crisis, health or social level.

Thus, and once and for all, The health authorities must accept without complexes that the funeral sector is an integral part of the health chain and, as such, that must have an active and participatory voice in the definition of the respective protocols.

Por último, I believe that the grieving process should be considered by society and the authorities, with the idea that when it is not processed well it can cause complications and develop pathological crises. In this manner, funeral homes play an important role, in the search for worthy solutions to say goodbye to the deceased, even in the worst moments. The technological solutions that emerged in this crisis are a good example.

4. What do you think will change in the sector after everything you've experienced?

All crises bring development due to the difficulties experienced. Many funeral homes have learned to work with greater respect for safety conditions. There was a faster development of new services. Many were not completely innovative, but they had a slower penetration in the market, like broadcast or condolences online. Por otro lado, who knows if we will give more value to what we have missed the most: human contact.

5. Will the memorials return? How will they be?

I think so. However, I am convinced that they will be complemented by the new digital services that have been developed in this crisis, especially when we have more and more families physically separated due to the professional mobility we have seen in Europe. In Portugal, the movement of faster ceremonies that we have already seen will continue or accelerate, something that will force funeral homes to rethink their service offering.