The Government has emphasised the significant risk of COVID-19 spreading at funerals and tangihanga and the extra personal responsibility required to limit the spread, as it expands the number of people allowed to attend at COVID-19 Alert Level 2.

From tomorrow, funeral directors can obtain dispensation to allow up to 50 people to attend a funeral, as long as the Ministry of Health is satisfied that a range of public health measures can consistently be met, such as physical distancing, hand hygiene and no food and drink congregations afterwards.

The process will be that funeral directors register funerals with the Ministry of Health and declare that health requirements have been met.

Ministers have been meeting with church leaders, funeral directors and iwi leaders over the past 24 hours.

“Funerals are exceptional events and have been one of the most difficult areas of restriction that we’ve considered as we try to avoid the double tragedy of losing a loved one and spreading the virus,” Dr David Clark said.

“The strength of our response to this virus has been in our agility to respond and we have listened to the concerns of the 10-person limit for funerals and moved on that - while emphasising they still pose a significant risk in setting us back.

“Around the world we have seen the virus spread at funerals as well as a second wave of infection taking hold just as countries were getting on top of the virus, like we are now.

“For example, a funeral of 100 people in the US led to an outbreak resulting in 30 deaths across one county, three funerals in South Africa led to 200 cases, and 143 cases in Canada have been linked to one funeral home.

“We can all be rightly proud of the progress we’ve made in tackling the virus over the past seven weeks and we need to maintain this unity to keep us on track.

“Our clusters of the virus represent a slice of Kiwi life – events where people mix and mingle – and any spread at these events could make the difference between moving forward with confidence and going backwards.

“I’m pleased that we have found a workable solution that that keeps people safe, while at the same time allowing more people to gather and grieve together,” David Clark said.