THANOS magazine

Japan | Asia - Middle East | March 21, 2022

COVID-19 response in Japan

By Mr. Hiroshi Kitajima, Immediate Past President FIAT-IFTA and Mr. Tokiaki Ishii, President All Japan Funeral Directors Co-operation

First of all, All Japan Funeral Association Cooperation, would like to express their gratitude and respect to all the FIAT-IFTA members for continuing to provide funeral services amid these difficult times requiring specific response measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of infected people in Japan is about 4,500,000 so far. At present the highly infectious new variant 'omicron' is spreading across Japan.


At present, there are no permit or notification laws in Japan concerning the operation of funeral services, meaning any party is free to operate such a business. As such, there are numerous funeral services with no knowledge of public hygiene and infectious disease response. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been cases of potential secondary infection caused by operators handling the deceased without wearing proper personal protection equipment or due to opening body bags during a contracted funeral service.


Amid such an environment, at the beginning of 2020 following the first confirmed cases, All Japan Funeral Directors Co-Operation worked to obtain the latest information on COVID-19 from the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) and created appropriate routes to secure the necessary personal protection equipment (masks, gloves, gowns, googles, etc.) and provide it to funeral companies. In addition, interviews of member organizations that handled people who actually died of COVID-19 were conducted to gather case studies and provide that information to cooperative members. Overall, information distributed included nine reports and played a significant role in the operations of cooperative members. Later in May 2020, the cooperative worked with the Cabinet and Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) to create guidelines concerning basic parameters for COVID-19 funeral services. These guidelines are in accordance with the basic guidelines for COVID-19 response outlined by the government. Cooperative members are applying these guidelines in their responses to ensure the safety of their customers.

In July 2020, the association provided full cooperation during the creation of “Guidelines Concerning the Handling, Transport, Funeral Services, and Cremation for Deaths and Suspected Deaths from COVID-19” issued by MHLW and METI. These guidelines outlined that funeral services should cooperate with medical professionals or crematorium staff during coffin delivery, transport of the deceased, wakes, funerals, and cremations to ensure that people who have lost their loved ones and the funeral service staff were able to complete funeral services in a safe manner. However, these are only guidelines and have no legal weight. We believe that to protect the public from victims of the infectious disease, we must learn from mandatory standards for public hygiene around the World. At the same time, all operators involved in the preservation and management of the deceased in Japan must engage in business management with a focus on public hygiene and engage in some form of reporting to administrative authorities.

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