Holding a wake during a pandemic is a different ballgame altogether.
The death of a loved one is the sort of life-changing event that surviving family members come to terms with. But when there is a pandemic going on, grief gets turned on its head. While coping with loss, a bereaved family now has the added responsibility of ensuring that they do not allow social interactions that can let the Covid-19 virus take root.
Keeping a safe social distance and keeping your water droplets to yourself are the new refrains we have grown used to hearing when we step into public places, and the same goes for the wakes that are ongoing while Covid-19 is still a clear and present danger.
The act of mourning will have to adapt to these new rules, as Singapore strives to keep numbers of new infection cases low. Already, there have been anecdotal stories both on mainstream and social media of what these new rituals may look like.
Because public health and safety will be the utmost priority as Singapore attempts to resume a rhythm of normalcy, even those of us who have to send off a loved one in a final farewell will need to bear the following in mind:
Keep safe distances
From June 19, families holding wakes for their loved one can receive up to 20 visitors at a time, up from the 10 number of persons that was first implemented during the Circuit Breaker period. Family members in groups of up to 5 will also be able to pay visits to niches of their loved ones in public columbaria.
But it is still necessary to ensure a safe social distance of 1 metre between visitors. According to NEA regulations, these means that attendees should be seated at least 1 metre apart if the seats are not fixed to the floor. For seats that are fixed, families will have to mark out alternate seats that should not be occupied.
Here are some other reminders to help you keep your family and friends safe in the time of a pandemic.
Keep visits short
Traditionally, a wake is an open-invitation event that allows well-wishers – from neighbours, to relatives to friends and colleagues, to drop in for the duration of the wake to say their last goodbyes. But the pandemic has made it necessary to keep visitor numbers small and manageable. Online RSVP tools, such as the one offered by Obits.sg, allow families to keep track of visitors who wish to attend. There are added conveniences such as setting a cap on visitor numbers at fixed time intervals to ease the burden of ensuring that they do not break any laws while they receive visitors.
Keep interactions minimal
Besides keeping a safe distance, other types of secondary interactions, such as offering a condolence or donating pek kim to the bereaved family, can also be contactless. Instead of writing a note on a piece of paper, or allowing money to exchange hands physically, offering virtual condolences or opting to receive pek kim digitally can be deployed.
Keep vulnerable persons away
Turning up to say your final goodbye and showing support for a grieving friend or family member is a great source of comfort and solace. But what if you’re not in the best health? Livestreaming wake and funeral services have become more accepted since the start of the Circuit Breaker phase, and this trend is a great way for families to allow friends and relatives who can’t attend in person to participate. The family can also share live streaming details with well-wishers through the digital media such as Obits.sg.
Keep hygiene levels high
Temperature taking has become the norm for people heading to public spaces such as malls and supermarkets. Wakes are no different. Some families have taken it on themselves to provide hand sanitizers. Others have chosen to keep the wake duration short, even opting not to hold a wake and selecting a direct funeral instead. It may be a relief for families who have to carry out a wake in the coming days that more people will be allowed to participate, but the onus will be on them to ensure hygiene levels are maintained.