GEORGE TOWN: Funeral service providers should be allowed to operate round the clock during lockdown, says the Malaysia Funeral Public Association.
Its president Kong Thian Hau said that the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) and National Unity Ministry should give them the approval to work 24/7 instead of restricting them to an 8am to 8pm window.
“We should be included in the 17 industries deemed essential to remain operational throughout the lockdown period until the end of the pandemic. The services provided are important," he said in a statement on Friday (June 4).
Kong said the role of funeral service providers was to treat the dead with dignity and give them a proper send-off.
"We can help alleviate the burden on hospital mortuaries by making immediate arrangements, especially for those who die of Covid-19. There are standard operating procedures (SOP) for the last rites, especially disinfection and sanitisation, that need to be carried out.
"We want to make the family members feel at ease, especially at this time," he said.
Kong said the funeral industry has a wide range of services, from burial plots, columbarium niches and tomb design to coffins, paper effigies and paraphernalia, and prayer materials to musician's services.
He said the industry also encompassed priests and embalmers, food caterers, shroud makers, transporters and tent/canopy providers.
"These services are in the supply chain and should not be disrupted," he said, adding that everyone in the business is on call around the clock and does not keep regular office hours.
Kong also urged the Federal Government to provide Covid-19 vaccinations for those in the funeral services industry as they come into frequent contact with Covid-19 victims.
"If our industry members are infected with the virus, who can take over from us?
"We want to be vaccinated as a form of protection for our families and ourselves," he said.
Kong said as at 5pm on Thursday (June 3), a total of 36 funeral service providers from the association had secured approval from Miti to carry out operations.
He said the National Unity Ministry had told the association that some 200 operators nationwide would see their applications approved during this lockdown.
On applying to Miti under its Covid-19 Intelligent Management System (CIMS) 3.0, Kong said his association members should select "pengurusan pengebumian selain Islam" (funeral matters other than Islam) in the system.
"For non-Muslim funeral providers to apply for a travel letter, you need to select 'pengurusan sosial' (social matters) before the system will lead you to 'funeral matters other than Islam'. Once you get the letter, it is still best to check with the nearby police station for clarification so that you won't be stopped at roadblocks," he said.