Vienna funerals go online amid coronavirus fears

Vienna funeral homes said Wednesday they are now offering to stream ceremonies online after the government restricted gatherings and travel to stem the COVID-19 outbreak.

Only up to five people are allowed to gather at a time, and movement has been strictly limited in Austria since last week as countries around the world fight to contain the virus.

Himmelblau, Vienna’s largest privately owned funeral home, has begun offering live stream of ceremonies since Friday, according to director Jacob Homan.

Six funerals have since been sent out, and more customers are interested in the free service, Homan said.

“It is difficult for many of the next-of-kin that they cannot attend the funeral,” he told AFP.

The funeral is filmed on a mobile phone and broadcast via the Zoom platform, which is secured by a password.

Customers also get the video to share with others later if they wish.

“Travel bans and the strict measures render it impossible at times to bid the final farewell,” noted Nina Laemmermayer, a spokeswoman for Bestattung und Friedhoefe Wien, which has also started to offer online streaming of ceremonies.

“The new service makes it possible for those left, especially those who are in high-risk groups, to take part in the funeral and ‘be there’ without any risks,” she added.

The country of nine million people has reported more than 5,500 new coronavirus cases so far, including 31 deaths.

Similar services are now also being offered elsewhere, such as France and Spain.