An Auckland woman whose mother died on the first day of lockdown will be allowed to say a final goodbye after the Ministry of Health intervened on humanitarian grounds.
Nandita Katira had not been allowed to visit a funeral home to see the body of her mother Hansa, who died from brain cancer at home on Thursday, the first day of the level 4 restrictions.
However, after Herald on Sunday enquiries about the situation, the Ministry of Health stepped in.
"Deputy Director-General John Whaanga has approved, on humanitarian grounds, an exemption for this woman to visit her deceased mother before cremation," a ministry spokeswoman said.
Nandita's 73-year-old mother's health deteriorated on Wednesday. She said she checked with a funeral home and was assured she and a priest would be allowed to carry out the Hindu rituals that must be done before a loved one is cremated.
However, when her mother's body was collected the next day she was told all funeral services were now banned - even one with just herself and a priest.
Desperate, the school teacher later asked to spend a few minutes with her mother, alone and in protective gear. She was willing to isolate herself from her daughter afterwards.
Told by the funeral service that it wasn't possible, she made the agonising decision to have her mother embalmed, against both her culture and mother's wishes.
"I didn't get a chance to say my final goodbyes to her," she told the Herald on Sunday earlier today and through tears.
"We are shattered. Absolutely shattered ... all I want is three minutes. Three minutes. Let me go there, without anybody being there, tell me where to go - I'll open the door ... kiss my mother once on her cheek and forehead and tell her I loved her, and give my final goodbyes.
"Unfortunately in lockdown people will die. I understand all the protocols. But you are allowed to go to a supermarket, but not your parent's funeral. Not one person?"
Nandita hasn't slept since Thursday, and contacted everybody she can - MPs, ministries, a social worker and other funeral homes. The restrictions also stopped friends from being able to visit and give her and her 14-year-old daughter support.
She was overwhelmed when the Herald on Sunday let her know of the Ministry of Health's intervention - but said she hoped other families would get the same help.
"It was very important for us. For me to have closure with my mother. It really means a lot, and for other people who will be in a similar situation...I hope that other families don't have to go through what we did."
According to the Ministry of Health Covid-19 website, "gathering together for funerals and tangi is not permitted while New Zealand is at Alert Level 4".
There are about 90 deaths every day in New Zealand. Earlier this week, the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand president Gary Taylor told the Herald the ministry had confirmed that even family wouldn't be able to attend services.
"Prior to that they had told us there could be gatherings, but that's been reeled back now - there are no funeral services," Taylor said.
"That has a huge implication for families going forward. The very act of gathering together and providing support to each other is really important to a family's mental wellbeing, as they process what has happened to them.
"As much as we are absolutely behind the Government's restrictions and we understand what they are for, it does mean that families are going to suffer."