• Edward Richings

Conducting a funeral during COVID-19

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

How many people can attend a funeral? Can a funeral take place for someone whose death was due to or related to COVID-19? Can vulnerable people attend a funeral?

This article outlines the most recent coronavirus guidelines in place to ensure you can still grieve properly in these unprecedented times.

People wearing PPE and holding a coffin for a funeral during Covid 19
Conducting a funeral during COVID-19

On 12 October 2020, the government outlined a new system of local COVID-19 alert levels.

There are additional restrictions in areas subject to high or very high alert levels.

These additional restrictions do not generally affect funerals to a great extent.

However, there is a need to be aware of where these additional restrictions do have an impact.

The risk of COVID-19 spreading increases wherever households mix and so there is a need to ensure this risk is controlled when grieving families come together to mourn.

However, it is essential to balance the needs of the bereaved to mourn with the need to minimise the spread of COVID-19 infections, which is what the guidance aims to do.

This article outlines the current guidance for funerals during the coronavirus pandemic in line with the recent, additional restrictions with the following concerns:

What should I do if I attend a funeral?

When attending a funeral, you should:

1. Keep your distance

Stay at least 2 metres away from other people who are not in your household or support bubble.

Yellow keep your distance sign for funerals during covid 19

2. Wash your hands

Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, or use hand sanitiser

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth

Cough or sneeze with your mouth and nose covered by a tissue (or, failing that, into the crook of your elbow)

Poster for washing your hands during the covid 19 pandemic

3. Wear a face covering

This is a legal requirement when attending indoor places of worship, crematoria and burial ground chapels unless you are exempt for health, disability or other reasons.

You should also wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing may be difficult and/or where you may come into contact with people you do not ordinarily meet.

Drawing of man wearing a yellow face covering

Avoid raised voices

You should avoid singing, shouting, chanting and raising your voice.

These will otherwise increase the risk of airborne transmission of coronavirus.

When organising a funeral, you should:

1. Minimise the risk of spreading the COVID-19 infection by looking to invite only friends and family;

2. Disclose to other mourners in attendance if there is a clinically-extremely vulnerable person attending and be respectful of that person’s need to avoid any close contact;

3. Seek to facilitate remote attendance or participation through, for example, live streaming;

4. Limit musical performances and involvement. Mourners should avoid playing musical instruments which are blown. There are exceptions, such as for professional, socially-distanced vocal or instrumental contributions, which is encouraged to take place outdoors.

5. Limit singing to a small, set group of no more than 6 people, all staying two-metres apart. Audience participation should not be encouraged. Instrumental music or recordings may be suitable alternatives to live singing.

6. Use microphones or similar equipment to prevent raised voices when mourners provide spoked addresses and responses.

Can we have a funeral for someone whose death was due to, or related to, COVID-19?

The deceased’s household members may have already been exposed to COVID-19.

However, steps should be taken to minimise any new exposure.

Particular regard should be made for people who are not part of the household and at-risk or vulnerable groups, such as older people aged 70 or older.

An alternative may be to defer the celebration or memorial service until further social restrictions are lifted and when attendance can take place safely.

Who can attend a funeral?

There must be no more than 30 people attending any funeral ceremonies, whether indoors or outdoors.

However, in some cases, less than 30 may be able to attend based on factors such as how many people can be accommodated safely within the premises in accordance with social distancing measures.

People in the same support bubble can stay overnight together as they count as one household. This may total to more than 6 people.

Who cannot attend a funeral?

  1. People who are symptomatic

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, then you should not attend a funeral.

Symptoms include a new continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell).

If you are symptomatic, you should immediately self-isolate and follow the stay-at-home guidance.

2. People who are required to self-isolate

If you have been instructed by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate because you have either tested positive for COVID-19 or a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, then you should not attend a funeral.

It is a legal offence to attend a funeral service under any circumstance if you are required to self-isolate.

The exception to this offence is where it is the funeral of a close family member, provided you take the necessary precautions.

However, in this case, it is still strongly recommended that you attend remotely where possible.

Can I still attend if I am clinically extremely vulnerable?

You should have received a letter informing you that you are a clinically extremely vulnerable person, or been told by your GP.

You may still attend a funeral; however, for your own personal protection, you are advised to keep social interactions to a minimum.