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What Is The Current Legal Position on Funerals?

Posted: Friday, 24 April 2020 @ 14:14

With the spread of coronavirus also affect funeral the government have now clarified their guidance.

Professor Paul Cosford CB, Emeritus Medical Director, Public Health England, has said: "We are encouraging all mourners to practise social distancing at funerals for the time being. This sadly means limiting the number of mourners to immediate households and closest family members."

Here is some further information. 

Who can attend a funeral?

The government had already asked families to restrict attendees but they have explained the rules saying that "only members of the deceased person’s household or close family members should attend funerals".  This means that sadly the dead person's best friends will not be allowed to be there in person or more distant family. However if the deceased has neither household or family members in attendance, then it is possible for a modest number of friends to attend. No one who is showing symptoms of covid-19 should go, self-isolating, or at high risk of Covid-19 should go.

Are there other options available?

It may be possible to provide online broadcasting of the service so that mourners can watch the service without attending in person.

Are there rules at the funeral?

Social distancing must be maintained during the ceremony Those who do attend need to adhere to social distancing measures. This means that the seats may need to be arranged with enough distance in between them. Mourners should leave 2m in between as they process in and out of the venue and they should avoid shaking hands, hugging and many of the natural responses during such a sad occasion. They should also make soap and water or hand sanitiser available. They should also avoid touching the coffin as they leave.

Are the rules being applied consistently?

However, there is huge disparity across the country over how councils are enforcing the rules. For example, Coventry introduced a limit of just five family members at services. In other areas there is a maximum of 10 people, while some crematoriums have announced that all relatives are barred from services

Can you hold a wake?

The lockdown has already closed pubs and restaurants meaning that mourners could not gather for a traditional wake. And even a gathering in someone's home is off limits because it could increase the spread of the virus. Instead mourners may want to arrange a celebration of the person's life after the restrictions are lifted. 

What if the person died from covid-19?

The rules are more restrictive and only close family can attend The official guidance also warns that there is a "small but real risk" of getting covid-19 from the dead body so family should avoid touching their loved ones. It says "mourners are strongly advised not to take part in any rituals or practices that bring them into close contact with the body of a person who has died from or with symptoms of COVID-19."