Coronavirus: Government increases number allowed at funerals, tangihanga to 50 people

The Health Minister has confirmed funerals and tangihanga will be allowed under alert level 2, with the number of people at the event now capped at 50.

From Thursday, funeral directors can apply for an exemption to allow up to 50 people at services, as long as the Ministry of Health is satisfied public health and safety measures can be met. This includes physical distancing, hand hygiene, and no food and drink congregations after. If these measures can't be met, only 10 people can attend.

Dr David Clark says this change means more families are able to grieve together.

"I hope that will provide some solace to people as they farewell their loved ones," he said on Wednesday during a press conference.

He says funerals have been one of the most difficult areas of restriction the Government has considered, and he's pleased there's now a workable solution.

"We've always said from the outset that we want to manage this risk. The sector has stepped up, and they've said that they can manage the situation adequately with the appropriate public health measures in place."

In a marae setting, Dr Clark says support will be provided by public health units to those who want to apply for the exemption.

"In the first instance, we will trust whanau and those who are grieving to take the right steps to keep their loved ones safe, and with the support of public health experts - where required - we will make sure that Māori are supported through the process."

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield joined Dr Clark at the press conference, and says iwi were already abiding by health regulations under alert level 3 for funerals and tangihanga - when the limit was 10 people - and they're aware of the need to keep grieving people safe.

"The feedback I got from iwi leaders when I joined their meeting via Zoom with them earlier today was that the marare committees are very conscious of the need to maintain the protocols and keep people safe as part of the tangihanga," Dr Bloomfield says.

He added there's no particular reason to limit tangihanga to one day - as they can often last for several days - and the main thing is people maintain public health measures at these events.