The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 have been published on 7th August and come into force from 8th August 2020.
Amended guidance on the wearing of face coverings in England can be found here.
From 8th August the list of places where the wearing of a face covering will be mandatory is being expanded and includes crematoria and burial ground chapels.
It is important to note that the wearing of face coverings does not replace the need for continued adherence to guidance on other measures for controlling the spread of the coronavirus, eg minimum 2m distancing, good hand hygiene, good ventilation, cleaning between services, screens etc.
The Regulations state:
(1) No person may, without reasonable excuse, enter or remain within a relevant place without wearing a face covering.
(2) The requirement in paragraph (1) does not apply—
(a)to a child who is under the age of 11;
(b)to a person responsible for a relevant place or an employee of that person acting in the course of their employment;
(c)to any other person providing services in the relevant place under arrangements made with the person responsible for a relevant place;
(d)to an employee of an operator of a public transport service acting in the course of their employment;
(e)to a person who enters or is within a transport hub in a vehicle (other than a vehicle being used for the provision of a public transport service);
(f)to a constable or police community support officer acting in the course of their duty;
(g)to an emergency responder (other than a constable) acting in their capacity as an emergency responder;
(h)to a relevant official acting in the course of their employment or their duties.
Para 2b means that face coverings are not required for employees in venues where face coverings have to be worn by members of the public. This is because employees should continue to follow guidance from their employer based on a workplace health and safety assessment. Employers need to consider the risk to their employees and to others involved in a funeral service when considering the use of face coverings by their teams.
Para 2c means that the venue manager can come to a suitable arrangement with anybody carrying out services in their venue, eg a cemetery or crematorium manager could agree with funeral directors that there is no requirement for their teams to wear face coverings on funerals as long as they can adhere to other methods for reducing the spread of the coronavirus. Further, the venue manager can also agree with anybody leading a funeral service or carrying out a reading during a funeral service that they don’t need to wear a face covering. You are advised to allow an officiant or reader to remove their face covering in order to take the service or carry out the reading so that the mourners can hear clearly, and those that rely on it can lip read. In such circumstances you should ensure that other methods of controlling the spread of the coronavirus are in place, eg 2m distancing, good ventilation, good hand hygiene, cleaning between services, protective screens etc.
Although the Regulations make it clear that no person may, without reasonable excuse, enter or remain within a relevant place without wearing a face covering (subject to the exemptions listed under paragraph 2), the Cabinet Office guidance on Face Coverings states you do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. The guidance lists some examples, but states that the reasons are not limited to these examples, therefore there is some flexibility in what you can allow. For example, mourners may become distressed and need to remove their face covering to wipe their eyes, nose or face. If so, they should not be asked to leave the funeral service. We need to adopt an understanding and sympathetic approach, whilst protecting health and safety.
It is recommended that you have a supply of face coverings available in case people inadvertently arrive without one. It is not recommended that people are refused entry to a funeral service if they don’t have a face covering, but it will be particularly important in such cases that social distancing and other measures are maintained.
You are advised to adopt a pragmatic approach whilst ensuring the health and safety of all those taking part in the funeral.
The Cabinet Office has given the following confirmation regarding mourners removing a face covering during a service:
‘If a person is in emotional distress during a service the intention of the guidance is that they are encompassed within reasonable excuses to remove a face covering. It would be expected that they wear a covering into the service but can remove their face covering if in distress.’