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From plague to coronavirus, French brotherhood keeps burying the dead

In a cemetery in northern France, members of the Charitable Brotherhood of Saint-Eloi de Bethune carried an urn towards a family tomb, each wearing a face mask that stood out against a uniform of blacktails, white gloves, and bicorne hat.

Behind them followed the deceased woman’s two sons, their partners, and a grand-daughter, their numbers restricted by a ban in France on large burial gatherings with the country under virtual lockdown as the coronavirus sweeps through Europe.

“We’re aware of the risks,” said brotherhood member Robert Guernot, “but our brotherhood was established during an outbreak of the plague.”

Gernot said he and fellow brotherhood members no longer embraced each other on arrival and endeavored to respect social distancing restrictions while carrying out their duties.

20 March 2020


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