Coffin manufacturers could have “a very quiet summer” after demand surged in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a trade leader.
Alan Tucker, chief executive of the Funeral Furniture Makers Association (FFMA), which represents the majority of coffin manufacturers, said the industry was currently meeting a higher demand from funeral directors and some stockpiling had been seen.
But he said it wasn’t known if the increase in coffins would be matched by the number of deaths.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen down the road…It’s a very low number at the moment,” he said.
“There’s obviously a case where funeral directors are buying extra stocks and are stockpiling to a certain extent in preparation for an upsurge in deaths but it could be if the deaths don’t hit those big numbers, coffin manufacturers are going to have a very quiet summer because funeral directors are going to have all of this stock.”
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Tucker said coffin manufacturers were all meeting current requirements, adding: “No one’s panicking at the moment.”
A former funeral director himself, Tucker said the coronavirus outbreak had presented other challenges to the funeral industry, including social distancing restrictions at funerals.
“One of the sadnesses of people dying at the present time is that they’re not having the funeral they would expect or the funeral they would deserve,” he said.
“The talk is of immediate family only attending the service whereas there’s somebody who might normally have a hundred, two hundred people at their funeral and they’re down to just five or six.”
A lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) - an issue already highlighted by NHS staff - is also a “major problem” for funeral directors who will be responsible for handling the bodies of people who died with COVID-19, he said.
He said: “From a funeral director’s point of view, every death they attend in a home or nursing home, they don’t know and they have to take precautions assuming that it is related.”
The FFMA is part of the Deceased Management Advisory Group, which is currently meeting daily to discuss how to handle the outbreak in the funeral profession and liaising with the government.