Funerals, tangihanga and last rites

Advice on funerals, tangihanga and providing last rites for families and whānau.

Losing a friend or loved one can be an extremely difficult and challenging time. This may be even more difficult if you have experienced bereavement and grief during COVID-19. At higher Alert Levels, we may need to adapt traditions and adopt new ways of farewelling our loved ones.

If you ever feel you are not coping, it is important to talk with a health professional.

If you need to talk, you can call or text 1737. It is free, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to talk with a trained counsellor.

Funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 1

At Alert Level 1, there is no limit on the number of people who can attend a funeral or tangihanga. Organisers do not need to register with the Ministry of Health to hold a funeral or tangihanga.

We encourage you to print off and display NZ COVID Tracer app QR codes at funerals and tangihanga to help with contact tracing.

Get your QR code poster

Funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 2

At Alert Level 2, there are limits on the number of people who can attend a funeral, tangihanga, kawe/hari mate or unveiling ceremony/hura kōhatu.

Up to 100 people can attend a funeral or tangihanga both indoors and outdoors.

This applies to funerals and tangihanga held at:

  • funeral homes
  • maraes
  • churches, mosques and other faith-based institutions
  • hired venues or facilities
  • private dwellings.

Organisers legally must record attendees to make sure contact tracing can happen if needed. If you are visiting a funeral home, or attending a funeral or tangihanga, you can scan in using the NZ COVID Tracer app, or provide your details for contact tracing.

You do not need to wear a face covering when attending a funeral or tangihanga but we recommend you wear one, if possible.

Do not attend a funeral, tangihanga or religious gathering if you are feeling unwell. Stay home and call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453  for advice on getting a test.

If there are people at the gathering you do not know, make sure you scan the QR code or give your details to an organiser.

We recommend avoiding physical contact such as harirū, hongi, kissing and hugging except if you:

  • live with them
  • are whānau
  • are close friends.

Providing last rites

At Alert Level 2, priests, imam and religious celebrants can provide last rites in a hospital, hospice or private residence. If the person they are visiting who is dying is in a health facility, they legally must follow the:

  • visiting rules of the health facility and,
  • all relevant infection prevention and control procedures.

Funeral advice for Muslim communities

At Alert Level 2, funerals can be officiated by the Imam. Funeral directors will work closely with Muslim communities to support ghusl (ritual washing) and janaza (prayer over the body) being carried out safely.

The gathering limits for funerals apply.

Ministry of Health guidance on deaths, funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 2 (external link)

Travel for funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 2

You can travel to another region that is at Alert Level 1 or 2 to attend a funeral or tangihanga. 

If you need to travel to an Alert Level 3 region to attend a funeral or tangihanga, you will need to apply for an exemption from the Ministry of Health.

Exemptions are only granted on a case-by-case basis and are not guaranteed.

Apply for an exemption (external link)

Travelling across an Alert Level 3 area 

You can travel into and out of the Alert Level 3 area (in 1 trip) to:

  • attend a funeral or tangihanga, or
  • collect or accompany the tūpāpaku.

Your place of departure or destination cannot be in the Alert Level 3 area, and your travel must be necessary to get to the service.

You must not stop, so far as reasonably practicable, on your journey. You can stop in an emergency  to use a toilet or get petrol, but you must follow Alert Level 3 guidance.

Funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 3

At Alert Level 3, up to 10 people can attend a funeral, tangihanga or burial. The 10 person limit does not include kaikaranga, kaikōrero, members of the clergy or staff who are attending.

Formal tangihanga involving large gatherings cannot take place at Alert Level 3. Families and communities must not carry out funerals themselves.

Funeral directors can continue working at Alert Level 3. Talk with your funeral director about specific arrangements — they can guide you on the best options for your situation, which may include livestreaming or video so others can take part in the service remotely.

No food or drink can be served at a funeral or tangihanga.

If you are attending a funeral or tangihanga, we recommend you:

  • keep 2 metres away from people you do not live with
  • avoiding physical contact, including harirū, hongi, kissing and hugging
  • wear a face covering.

Advice for funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 3 | Ministry of Health (external link)

Viewing of tūpāpaku

2 whānau members from the same bubble as the deceased are allowed to dress their loved one — this must be carried out in the presence of an embalmer or funeral director.

You can go to view the tūpāpaku — the person who has died — by appointment with the funeral director. Up to 10 people from the same bubble can view the tūpāpaku. The 10 person limit does not include staff who are attending. Other whānau can view the body by appointment, but only in their household bubbles, and with the 10 person limit.  You can only go to vew the tūpāpaku once. Your funeral director will work with you to make sure viewings are carried out in a safe way.

Everyone attending a viewing must wear a face covering.

Contact tracing

Funeral directors legally must keep a record of all the people who enter the funeral home. If you're visiting a funeral home, you can scan in using the NZ COVID Tracer app, or provide your details for contact tracing.

Funeral advice for Muslim communities

Funerals can be officiated by your Imam. Funeral directors will work closely with Muslim communities to support ghusl (ritual washing) and janaza (prayer over the body) being carried out safely. Religious rituals must be done in the presence of an embalmer or funeral director. Your funeral director will let you know about any PPE requirements, and the public health guidelines you need to follow.

Up to 10 people can attend the funeral. The 10 person limit includes members of the clergy or staff who are attending.

Visiting cemeteries

At Alert Level 3 you can visit a cemetery in your region, if you can do so safely while keeping 2 metres away from people not in your bubble.

Travel for funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 3

You can travel to another region within Alert Level 3 to:

  • attend a funeral or tangihanga
  • accompany tūpāpaku or a deceased person.

Travelling to an Alert Level 2 region

Travel across the Alert Level boundary is still restricted to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you need to travel to an Alert Level 2 region to attend a funeral or tangihanga, you will need to apply for an exemption from the Ministry of Health.

Exemptions are only granted on a case-by-case basis and are not guaranteed.

Apply for an exemption (external link)

Funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 4

Gathering together for funerals and tangihanga is not allowed at Alert Level 4. This is because they present a high risk of spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect our whānau.

This includes:

  • public funeral or memorial services
  • burials and cremations
  • tangihanga at marae, funeral homes and churches
  • private whānau tangihanga.

What to do when someone dies

If someone in your whānau or in your bubble passes away, the following steps can help you make the necessary arrangements.

  • Contact the health provider or GP of the person who has passed away — ideally this should be done by someone in the same bubble.
  • Get in touch with a local funeral director who will help you organise next steps.

Māori communities, iwi, hapū and whānau are being encouraged to establish local kaiwhakarite or people who can assist whānau during this time. Get in touch with your iwi and hapū organisations or local marae to see if a kaiwhakarite has already been established.

Viewing of tūpāpaku

Whānau can go into a funeral home to view the tūpāpaku if they are all in the same household bubble. You will need to book this in advance. There are strict requirements that funeral directors need to follow. Your funeral director will work with you to make sure viewings are carried out in a safe way.

Everyone attending a viewing must wear a face covering.

Contact tracing

Funeral directors legally must keep a record of all the people who enter the funeral home. If you're visiting a funeral home, you can scan in using the NZ COVID Tracer app, or provide your details for contact tracing.

Funeral services

Funeral directors will continue working during Alert Level 4. They will be able to guide you on the best options for your situation, which may include:

  • livestreaming services on social media, or videoing them for later viewing
  • holding the funeral or tangi after the Alert Level 4 restrictions ease
  • holding a memorial service later, when restrictions on gatherings are lifted and it is safe to do so.

Burials at urupā

Whānau who live in the same region as their whānau urupā can choose to have their loved one buried there. Whānau will need to make the urupā arrangements themselves.

Your local marae can assist whānau by phone, email or video-conference with making these arrangements.

Funeral advice for Muslim communities

Funeral directors will work with Muslim communities to identify people who can carry out ghusl (ritual washing) and janaza (prayer over the body). Religious rituals must be done in the presence of an embalmer or funeral director. Your funeral director will let you know about any PPE requirements, and the public health guidelines you need to follow.

Information and advice about funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 4 | health.govt.nz (external link)

Attending a funeral of tangihanga outside the Alert Level 4 region

If you are in an Alert Level 4 region, you are not permitted to travel to attend a funeral or tangihanga. We recommend you talk to the funeral director to organise virtual options.

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