Funerals: How many people can attend a funeral during lockdown?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson updated the nation on new rules and procedures for businesses and the public going forward. Pubs, restaurants, museums and cinemas will be allowed to reopen from new month, on July 4. In addition to this, wedding ceremonies can go ahead with up to 30 guests present – but wedding receptions are still not allowed. The Prime Minister briefed the Cabinet on the proposals, which he said were supported by scientific advice from SAGE, before setting out the details in a statement to the House of Commons.

How many people can attend a funeral during lockdown?

The guidance for funerals during lockdown has not changed since the measure was first announced in March.

According to the Government website “communities, organisations and individuals are strongly advised to take action to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus infection among mourners who are gathered to pay their respects”.

As it stands, only immediate family members are allowed to attend funeral services.

Although this may vary from person to person, immediate family members generally mean a parent, son or daughter, partner or spouse.

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The guidance takes a particular focus on protecting people who are clinically vulnerable and more likely to develop severe illness.

These actions include restricting the number of mourners to be as low as possible to ensure a safe distance of at least 2 metres can be maintained between individuals.

Alongside the funeral director, chapel attendant, and funeral staff, only the following should attend:

  • Members of the person’s household
  • Close family members
  • Or if the above are unable to attend, close friends
  • Attendance of a celebrant choose, should the bereaved request this

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The Government website states: “There is an increased risk of transmission of coronavirus where families and communities comer together following the death of a loved one, from any cause.

“Whiles recognising the importance of these rituals and gatherings, it is strongly advised that the actions detailed in this guidance are taken to reduce the spread of infection, particularly to clinically vulnerable people who are at risk of severe illness.”

The guidance adds: “For deaths that are suspected or confirmed as being due to coronavirus, it is recognised that household members of the deceased person may have already been exposed to coronavirus during the course of the preceding illness.

“However, steps should be taken to minimise any new exposure, especially where individuals who are not part of the household and those at risk of severe illness may come into contact with the virus.”

Even when attending funerals, mourners must be careful to adhere to social distancing guidance.

According to Public Health England: “Mourners should avoid any direct face-to-face or physical contact, for example hugging each other unless they are part of the same household.”

However, due to the high level of deaths, some councils decided to shorten funerals to just 20 minutes long.

PHE has warned officials, such as mortuary staff and funeral directors, of continued risk of infection from dead bodies.

The guidance says: “Those handling bodies should be aware that there is likely to be a continuing risk of infection from the body fluids and tissue of cases where the coronavirus infection is identified.”

As a result, funeral workers have been asked to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as plastic aprons, disposable gloves and eye protection when dealing with someone who has died of coronavirus.

According to The Church of England’s guidance for clergy, family and friends who cannot attend the funeral can engage by telephone or video call.

The guidance states that funerals can be live streamed from the graveside to loved ones who are not able to attend.

Other institutions are encouraging the use of live streams at funerals as it limits the amount of people in attendance.

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