The coronavirus pandemic has gotten people stockpiling groceries, household essentials and many other items. None of these items is as grim as what Britain’s funeral homes are stocking up on: coffins.
The global health crisis places funeral organisers under unprecedented pressure. There’s a massive increase in demand for professional funeral services because of the situation. But the rising number of coronavirus fatalities is just one aspect of the situation that the sector finds itself in.
The pandemic makes it more difficult to repatriate a body from the UK. Repatriation takes a lot of work. Embalming is a legal requirement. Legal documentation has to be filed before the deceased can be transferred to the airport. And the current health situation might delay these processes and the flight.
If you would like to bury or cremate a deceased loved one overseas, or if it was something that they requested beforehand, this is how you can go about it.
1. Notify UK authorities and the embassy about the death.
The first thing you have to do is register the death in the UK and notify the embassy of the country wherein you wish to repatriate your deceased loved one. You have to inform them that the individual has passed away. They will help you process the necessary documents for repatriation. Keep in mind, however, that the COVID-19 situation might delay this.
2. Inform the coroner of the plan to repatriate the body.
Once the proper authorities have been informed, let the coroner know. You will need to prepare a Form of Notice to move a body from England and Wales to other parts of the UK or abroad. It usually takes four days for the coroner to formally acknowledge receipt of the notice. They will then prepare an ‘Out of England’ certificate, which is a necessary transportation document.
Take note: the coroner might order a post-mortem investigation based on the circumstances. This document might be necessary depending on where you plan to transport the body.
3. Arrange the legal documents needed for repatriation.
Work with relevant UK authorities, your embassy or consulate and the coroner to issue legal documents for repatriation. You might need your loved one’s passport, an acknowledgement from the coroner, as well as a medical certificate declaring that the exportation of the body doesn’t violate sanitary regulations. This is especially important now that COVID-19 cases are rampant.
On a related note, a certificate of embalming is part of most countries’ standard procedures.
4. Prepare the body and the logistics for repatriation.
After securing the legal documents, make sure the body of your deceased loved one is ready for transport. The logistics include embalming the body, securing a zinc-lined coffin (which is a standard requirement for the repatriation of deceased persons) and transporting the body to the airport.
A local funeral director can arrange these logistics for you. They can also help pack the coffin in hessian, bubble wrap or another type of protective packaging to meet airline standards.
It’s hard to tell when the body of your deceased relative will be repatriated. It usually takes a couple of weeks to organize, but given all health and safety precautions because of the coronavirus, it might take a little longer before the body is brought home. An alternative would be to bring the ashes home. For this, you will need the death certificate and certificate of cremation, then notify the airline.