COVID-19: Government thanked for 'listening' as public outrage prompts funeral rule change

The Government is being thanked for "listening" after it bowed to public outrage and raised the number of people allowed at funerals and tangi from 10 to 50 - but Simon Bridges thinks policy is being created "on the hoof".

The policy change will impact Kiwis like Stacey whose family has faced unfathomable loss. Under lockdown, both her husband's parents died within days of each other, and then last weekend her grandmother passed away too. 

The family just wants to say goodbye, and Stacey told Newshub it will mean a lot "to be able to have all our immediate family with us, whether it's at home or whether it's stipulated that it's in a controlled environment at a funeral parlour". 

News from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday that funerals and tangi would be capped at 10 people dealt a final devastating blow, with Stacey describing it as a "kick in the guts to be perfectly honest". 

The widow of Blair Vining, who fought tirelessly for better cancer care in New Zealand, is also among those who have lost loved ones during the COVID-19 crisis. Melissa Vining says without the support and love she received when Blair died last year, her family could have been broken. 

"It's the last piece of dignity for the person that's passed. We took huge comfort being able to do that process for Blair. I just think there are so many inconsistencies."

Thanks to people like Melissa and Stacey pointing out those inconsistencies, the Government has fixed them - to an extent. Up to 50 people can now attend funerals and tangi. 

"We have listened to those concerns," said Health Minister David Clark on Wednesday. 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield added, "We've had feedback, we've engaged, we've listened, and come up with a solution that I think people will recognise as a good way forward."

It still doesn't square with level 2 rules allowing up to 100 strangers to go the movies, the gym or be in the same restaurant, or the restrictions on professional sports. 

Dr Clark justified the rules saying people at funerals "go to comfort one another - they go to grieve and they go to mix and mingle". 

But Melissa Vining doesn't see it that way, telling Newshub: "I don't think that grieving together necessarily means that you have to hug together."

Funeral directors and marae will have to seek an exemption for 50 people, and commit to physical distancing, hand-washing and no food or drink afterwards. 

National leader Simon Bridges suggested not enough thought is going into the Government's rule-making, saying: "I think the new rule smacks of incoherent, inconsistent policy on the hoof."

Newshub asked the Prime Minister if she recognises how much hurt the Government has caused grieving families because of the rules. 

"I think COVID-19 is causing hurt - immeasurable hurt," she said, adding: "I do accept that there have been consequences."

For Kiwis like Stacey, the rule change makes a real difference. 

Her message for the Government: "Thank you for listening."