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By @mjcritchleyTuesday 21 April 2020 15:15

As with many frontline workers, a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and confusion over what is required is one of the most familiar complaints. The government’s advice says there is a small but continuing risk of infection to those handling the bodies of the deceased who were infected by Covid-19. Until the end of March, it was recommended that funeral directors wear full PPE while working with the dead.

Public Health England then released updated, industry-specific guidelines that said gowns and respirators were not necessary. “I’m on a lot of different forums with funeral directors,” says Jo Williamson, owner of Albany Funerals in Maidstone, Kent. “We were puzzled, thinking what has happened here?” Naturally, many of them drew a link between this change in advice and the highly publicised shortages in the NHS and elsewhere.

In a statement to The Independent, Public Health England said their initial advice was based on previous coronavirus outbreaks of Sars and Mers. The change of guidance was based on an “improved global understanding of Covid-19 and the safe systems of working in mortuary practice”, and their current advice is aligned with that of the World Health Organisation. Nevertheless, many funeral directors would rather be safe than sorry.

“We decided as a company that we would treat the initial advice we were given as what we would use,” Williamson says. “We’re in full PPE handling bodies.”