Luca Tabossi (Italy): "Funeral workers played an essential and very delicate role"

Funermostra interviews Luca Tabossi, CEO of the centennial funeral home Casa Tabossi. Also, He is a member of the National Federation of Italian Funeral and the European Federation of Funeral Services..

1. How would you summarise the response of the sector to the COVID-19 health crisis?

I believe that the Italian funeral sector has responded very well to the COVID-19 health emergency. Companies have had to adapt to an entirely new way of working, both from a psychological and organizational point of view. Working during the lockdown was particularly difficult, as funeral employees found themselves carrying out their daily duties in a surreal atmosphere, with the horrendous task of entering the mortuary chambers of hospitals and various health facilities. It was particularly challenging during the first weeks of lockdown, when the government hadn’t yet published guidelines that defined the protocols we needed to carry out our work. This was compounded by the fact that in some regions of Italy that were severaly affected by COVID-19, funeral employees had to deal with an extraordinary number of deaths, well above the usual average.
Moreover, funeral operators played a highly sensitive role from a human point of view, as they had to manage relations with the relatives of the deceased who, during the lockdown period, received the news of the death of their loved ones but were unable to see them; in most cases, safety protocols required the coffin to be closed immediately, and prohibited funeral ceremonies or wakes.

2. Do you think that the media provided correct information about the funeral sector during the crisis? Do you think society did justice to all its professionals?

The media did not provide clear, correct information, especially about the commitment of the funeral sector during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy. Unfortunately, the news often fails to show how much effort has been made by those working in such a sensitive industry in such a difficult period as the COVID-19 outbreak. The whole world has seen images showing military trucks in Italy transporting coffins to crematoriums. These images should not be taken to mean that funeral employees were unable to carry out their work; what they show is that the Italian State was forced to intervene to deal with an extremely high number of deaths which, in the most affected areas, were 400% higher than the usual average for the period, especially in terms of cremations.
I would also like to point out that the Pope, during the Holy Mass celebrated in Santa Marta on 25th April, expressed his appreciation for the funeral sector and drew attention to the work carried out by funeral employees. Here is the link:
https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope-francis/mass-casa-santa-marta/2020-04/pope-francis-mass-marta-funeral-service-missionary-witness.html

3. What three conclusions would you draw from the sector’s experiences during the COVID-19 crisis?

We need operating protocols to define the procedures to be applied in our sector during emergency situations like the one caused by COVID-19.
As a result of the COVID emergency, simplified digital procedures were adopted in Italy to deal with the bureaucratic requirements of our sector, such as requesting and obtaining authorisations and certificates. This was very positive! We hope we will never again have to endure what we went through during lockdown.

4. What changes will the funeral sector be implementing after everything it has been through?

We are still too involved in the COVID-19 pandemic to be get a complete picture of the changes in the funeral sector. Today the Italian funeral sector is certainly ready, both at regulatory and operational levels, to face another pandemic… but we sincerely hope that we won’t have to, ever again.

5. Do you think we’ll be seeing memorial services again? What will they be like?

If by memorial services you mean funerals, I should point out that funerals and funeral ceremonies were authorized in Italy as of 4th May. The parish priests control the number of attendants entering the church and ensure that the area has been sufficiently sanitised after each funeral.