Our security is not guaranteed. And we also lack masks, gloves and sanitising products. And also in our businesses that work in our Federation there are cases of people infected from Covid 19 and then quarantined, with the resultant temporary closing of the business.” This is told us by Alessandro Bosi, from FENIOF, one of the most important association of funeral businesses in Italy.

“Everyone saw and were hit by those images about corpses taken away from Bergamo by military trucks. In these situation, like Bergamo or Bescia, were there aren’t many funeral homes, it’s enough that 2 of them stop working and the whole system collapses. And so we asked to Government, to the civil defence and to regions’ presidents for giving to funeral businesses sanitary devices, because we too can be infected by Covid 19″

– How can corpses spread virus?

“There are two problems we have to deal. A dead doesn’t breath, so it could be not dangerous anymore. When you lift it, just for putting it in the coffin, happens an unavoidable compression of the body and gas comes out. And that’s the first, but there’s another about the relation with relatives, when we have to take more than one corpse from a house. In fact, all the relatives can be virus carriers, and we have to meet them, for drafting papers and agreements about funeral, without any protection. That’s why we asked councils to active a system for processing paper online. For example, Milano’s council allows a sort of video autocertification: you can send a videomessage to the council, just with your smartphone, showing your ID to verify your identity, and talk about arrangements on cremation. I would be really useful if every Council does so (less we move and meet, less the wirus will spread), in some zones, otherwise just a member of a quarantined family, according to the law, must come to council office for giving arrangements.

National law provides for looking at the corpse for 24 hours, but now 6 hours are enough. It means that after 6 hours the corpse can be removed and putted in a coffin, after tanatoghaphy certification. In this way corpses can be moved as soon as possible from their houses or morgues. Corpses mustn’t be dressed, in order to avoid contact with relatives.

It’s covered with a blank shroud and put in the coffin. Then it’s carried to graveyard. There aren’t buffers enough to know if all the dead people were infected by Covid 19, but it’s clear that a lot of corpses that we took are infected, even if we don’t know it. Every year there are 600.000 of deads. We can say that 1 every 10 dead were infected by Coivd. It’s just an approximate estimate, but it’s an impressive number. The problem is that to get into the summer when the peak of death will be already concluded. terperature now are still cold and it’s easy to manage lots of corpses in places not used to it. When temperature will be higher, there will be a sanitary problem, because rotting is shorter. Now graveyards and cremators are struggling to handle the situation, in the summer it will be worse. In Bergamo lots of coffins are left in churches, because there’s no space left. It won’t be an acceptable situation when there will be hot weather.”

NATIONAL BUSINESS
Funeral business in Italy is free entrepreneurial activity.
We need to remember it: according to the law, private graveyards can’t exist, despite for those linked to religious or congregational bodies. In Italy there are 13000 graveyards. Funeral business, in Italy, is organised in 3 parts:

Private funeral businesses
Currently there are 6500 active business, but some of them could be subsidiaries of a bigger one. Half of them works independently as businesses, and that’s means with own structure, means, storages, workshops and employee. The other half works as agencies, just with offices, without any structures. Just 5% of businesses works with more than 500 outputs yearly, 75% with 200, the other with less than 100.

Public business
These are run by Council, directly or not. They are busines that work in big cities and with big numbers of funerals managed. Often, Council or council agencies manage both funeral and graveyard activity and, sometimes, they work with morgues and hospitals. Antitrust, about it, sued those commissions, because they damage business of local enterpreneur and invite concils to circumscribe their action among public services, following principles of subsidiarity and without offering commercial services of funeral parlour, mostly when council businesses have benefits and privileges that can advantage them on private businesses.

ONG
There are almost 200, split into religious, charity and secular bodies, with their own funeral services, but a quarter of those with their own graveyard. They’re very popular in Toscana and near Napoli. There are also seventy association that does only cremation, and they run council cremators.

How much does a funeral costs?

The average is 2.600 €, by a private business. With 600.000 funeral every year, we’re talking about a turnover of 1.560.000.000 €. There’s also another turnover of about 2.800.000.000 €, linked to graveyard operations, including:
– 1.300.000.000 €, marbles and monuments;
– 1.100.000.000 €, sanitary and council rights;
– 400.000.000 €, flowers, garden, maintenance.

Also, we need to think that after years of free charge, cremation now costs about 700 € to families (The cremation costs just 600 €, plus taxes and papers).

Turnover:
– 80 coffin factories, including 20 in middle-high industry;
– 15 workshops that transform cars in hearses;
– 30 textile workshops (shrouds, paading…);
– 10 sanitary productors;
– 15 foundry;
– 40 workshops for other products.

Coffins builders are very important, because they work for the whole country and also they sell in other countries.
Now they are moving to burial urns. They follow the trend: in this period something like Modigliani’s paintings is very appretiated. the idea is to make a good piece of decor, That can stay in a bedroom or living room.

Talking about funerals
Almost 600.000 deads yearly (1% of Italian population), including:
– 20.000 paid by Public Amministration, because they were poor or unknown;
– 65.000 covered by council services or charity associations;
– 515.000 managed by private business.

Talking about deaths
– 75% happened in a hospital;
– 22% in a house;
– 3% in public places.

Talking about corpses
– 33% buried;
– 41 % intermented;
– 26 % cremated.

Every corpse must be located in one graveyard. In Italy they are more than 13.000. All of them are public, despite 100 of them that are private.

Translation by Lorenzo Dal Bosco

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Caporedattore

Daniele De Luca ha lavorato per 15 anni come redattore a RadioPopolare di Milano, passando dalle notizie locali ai GR nazionali. E’ stato corrispondente dagli Stati Uniti per Radio Popolare. Ha collaborato con Diario e il settimanale L’Espresso. Caporedattore a CNRMedia. E’ direttore di ‘FuoriDiMilano’, il primo magazine free-press composto da una redazione di utenti dei servizi di salute mentale.

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