Almost every sector in Australia has been adversely affected by the coronavirus lockdown – even the business of death.
Funeral directors across the country have been struggling with a massive drop in trade since the federal government introduced strict social distancing measures in March.
In places like China, Spain, Italy, Iran and the US, undertakers were so overwhelmed by the number of bodies piling up from COVID-19, coffins were in short supply and funeral homes could no longer cope with the influx of deceased.
Although public health experts feared Australia would suffer a similar fate, the nation’s overall death rate appears to be dropping.
Funeral directors in Australia have been struggling with a massive drop off in trade since the federal government introduced strict social distancing measures in March
One funeral business in the Hunter Valley told Daily Mail Australia they’ve lost about half their usual trade.
‘As a comparison, last April we did 46 funerals and this year we did 22, so that’s more than a 50 percent drop,’ the owner of the family-operated business said.
‘There can be quiet times during the year, but this is unprecedented.’
The business-owner said the problem has become so bad he’s now looking at accessing the federal government’s jobkeeper payment’s scheme to stay afloat.
At the national level, the Australian Funerals Directors Association confirmed: ‘anecdotally it appears the death rate may have slowed or at least plateaued’.
The association said there are also fewer people able to attend funerals due to the 10-person rule, which has now been eased to include 20 inside and 30 outside.
‘In some cases, services are being postponed until a later date,’ which is also hurting revenue, the association said.
While it remains extraordinarily counter-intuitive to think Australia’s total death rate would decrease during a pandemic, the stay-at-home orders which have been in place for the past two months have had a substantial effect on public health – and not just coronavirus.
Social distancing measures have seen influenza deaths rapidly decline
A hold on elective surgery has meant there has been an apparent decrease in deaths from post-op complications
Official government death statistics will not be made available until later this year, however some data does show a clear downturn in death.
There has been a 7.0 percent fall in workplace fatalities this year according to Safe Work Australia and the nation’s road toll has also dropped 14 percent, the federal Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics reported.
Other deadly viruses like influenza, which normally kill over 1000 elderly Australians each year, have also been stopped in their tracks.
The University of Newcastle’s weekly online FluTracking survey found about 40,000 people had the illness by May 2019, a figure which jumped to 70,000 by July.
The figures now sit at a historic low with just 229 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases nationwide.
Road fatalities have fallen 14 percent in Australia with less cars on the road due COVID-19 restrictions
Work Safety Australia has reported a 7.0 percent drop in workplace fatalities
‘Older people, with social distancing, they are not mixing. They’re not getting colds, they are not getting the flu, they are not getting congestive cardiac failure from coughing,’ the funeral director said.
‘Another thing is that elective surgery is being put on hold so people aren’t getting things like thrombosis post-op.’
Although the death slump may not be good for the funeral industry’s bottom line, the owner said he’s still grateful for the strict lockdown measures.
‘I think Australia has been blessed that we have not been afflicted like many other places around the world,’ he said.
‘I think it’s remarkable, I think it’s wonderful.’