The rules preventing New Zealanders from being with dying family members during the Covid-19 pandemic could be relaxed as we slide down alert levels.
Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield signalled the area is something officials “are actively looking at” during a public question and answer session on coronavirus crisis on Monday afternoon.
People have been instructed to stay home during Alert Level Four, set to be in place for at least another week, meaning family and friends have been unable to be with the dying if they do not live in their own home bubble.
The alert level has also caused distress for those mourning the deaths of family and friends, with only those in the bubble of the deceased able to attend funerals.
Others have had to watch live streams of funerals and tangi, with some electing to have their loved ones cremated rather than buried which would be their preference during non-Covid-19 periods.
Some have arranged for their loved one’s bodies to be stored at funeral homes until the alert levels allow for funerals to take place.
In a Facebook live broadcast on Monday night, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the restrictions around funerals as being “one of the things she has found so devastating” about the lockdown.
“I can assure you that, within the principles of what we’re trying to achieve, we are really looking at what we can do to ease some of those most painful areas.
“But we do have to still keep in mind that Alert Level Three is about still being in a position where we need to get transmission down, and that’s the judgement that we keep making.
“Because the sooner we can do that, the sooner we can actually get to being a little bit closer to normal. If we don’t achieve that we’ll be in this half-way point, which is really hard for everyone, for longer, so that’s the trade-off,” Ardern said.
In speaking about providing support to the dying, Bloomfield recognised the “huge impact” the lockdown restrictions have had on family and friends, as well as those who are at the end of their life.
“I can say this is something we are looking at and [it] will certainly be something we will be wanting to give advice about, especially as part of a step down to level three restrictions.
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield provides the latest figures on Monday, April 13, 2020.
“I’m sure [we’ve] all experienced the death of a loved one in our own families and we recognise just the huge impact this has on members of a family and of course on those who are dying to be able to have those who are so special to have them around them,” Bloomfield said.
Earlier, Bloomfield joined Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a joint press conference at Parliament where they confirmed there were 19 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number in New Zealand to 1349.
Bloomfield also confirmed a fifth death; a man in his 80s associated with the Rosewood home in Canterbury.
“We need to be prepared for further serious illness and possible deaths,” Bloomfield said.
He also confirmed two more Covid-19 clusters – one at an aged care facility in Auckland and another small outbreak in Auckland.
Ardern planned to issue more detail around what life will look like at lower alert levels on Thursday.
A decision on whether the country can move out of Alert Level Four, the most restricted level, is due to be made on April 20, following a meeting by Cabinet.
Any potential de-escalation of the alert levels would come into play 48 hours later, Ardern said.