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New normal hoped for ‘life passages’

Robert Milne and Jo Piper of Wairarapa Funeral Services. PHOTO/FILE

ARTHUR HAWKES
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As the region approaches the possibility of Alert Level 2, it’s positive news for those looking to hold larger funeral and wedding ceremonies.

At Level 2 100 guests will be allowed, but not without limitations.

During Level 4 and Level 3 funerals had been cut to a 10-person attendance, with many choosing to cremate or bury their deceased immediately and have a remembrance service at a later date.

Robert Milne, manager of Wairarapa Funeral Services, said on Sunday that things felt “a little bit more normal”.

“But social distancing and cleanliness are still a top priority,” he said.

Milne also emphasised that contact tracing would be very important, with people’s details and times of arrival and departure needing to be stored in case of another outbreak.

“That’s going to be the same if you go to a restaurant or anywhere: a register that needs to be signed, pretty much anywhere we go.

“We’re still going to have to be very conscious of staying on top of this. And as a country we need to do that, because it gives us, and the wider community, a chance to farewell the people that are really important to us.”

Pamela Bailey, a celebrant based in Masterton, said she was “quite surprised that we’ll be able to have groups of up to 100”.

“It seems like a lot to me.”

But she acknowledged the coronavirus situation in Wairarapa was “healthy” with few cases, and all recovered.

For those attending ceremonies under the new rules, social distancing will still be mandatory, which has raised some questions, particularly with dining arrangements and the one-metre rule.

“I just don’t know how they’re going to manage that. I don’t yet have that information.”

For Bailey, the most important thing was that people were once more able to come together and gather in ceremony, for what she called the “life passages” of births, deaths, and marriages.

While her workload has been drastically reduced, Bailey said she had still presided over a few ceremonies under Level 3, which included one wedding, for a couple who just couldn’t wait.

“They were in their late 60s, and they’d been together a long time, and had planned to get married coming into covid-19. They wanted to do it as soon as they could. Despite the lack of people we made it really special.”

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