Revised Guidance – key issues, 10th July 2020

Public Health England have published updated guidance on managing a funeral during the coronavirus pandemic. A copy of the guidance can be seen here.

Key issues

Who can attend a funeral?
The guidance states that a modest number of close friends and family of the deceased may attend. Previously attendance had to be limited to as few as possible, and could only include members of the deceased’s household or close family, or friends if there were no family or household members.

Anyone showing symptoms of Covid-19 should not attend a funeral, but should be encouraged to participate remotely, for example via live streaming.

What is the maximum number of attendees?
The Regulations do not specify a maximum number of attendees allowed at a funeral in either a cemetery or crematorium.

The guidance allows the venue to decide the maximum number of attendees based on venue capacity and the requirement to allow at least 2 metres between individuals. The ICCM recommends a risk assessment is carried out to determine the maximum number for each venue based on the 2 metre social distancing requirement. The guidance states that numbers should be minimised, and that attendees should be enabled to follow the guidance on staying alert and safe.

It is interesting to note that guidance relating to places of worship advises a maximum of 30 attendees. Cemeteries and crematoria are not places of worship. Further, regulations limit the number of people meeting in private homes to 30, and some outdoor gatherings are also limited to 30. However, businesses and venues following Covid-19 Secure guidance can host larger groups. Events in public outdoor spaces that are organised by businesses, charitable or political organisations, and public bodies can feature more than 30 attendees, provided reasonable steps are taken to mitigate the risk of transmission, in line with Covid-19 Secure guidance and including completion of a risk assessment.

Although the regulations and guidance do not impose a limit on the number of people who can attend a funeral at a cemetery or crematorium, members should take into consideration:

  • a modest number of people should attend (the guidance does not define what is a modest number, but it implies that it is lower than would be the case outside of the coronavirus period)
  • a risk assessment should be carried out
  • 2 metre distancing should be maintained

Using the above, it should be possible to set a maximum number of attendees specific to your venue(s).

Can attendees at a funeral sing?
The guidance states that activities such as singing, chanting, requiring raised voices or playing of instruments that are blown should be specifically avoided. These activities pose a possible additional risk of infection even if social distancing is being observed or face coverings are used.

Do venues have to provide hand-washing/sanitising facilities?
The guidance requires that handwashing facilities with soap and water or hand sanitiser are made available and clearly signposted. Venues should also keep their toilets open and carefully manage them to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.

Do venues have to record contact details for funeral attendees?
The guidance requests venues to keep a temporary record of staff shift patterns, and of visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable by the venue. This is to assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed to help contain outbreaks of infection.

The ICCM recommends that members consult with their local Health Protection Teams about the level of information that is required to be collected in their area. As numbers at a funeral are limited, it may be sufficient that the details of the person applying for the funeral are held and made available if necessary. The guidance implies that it is the responsibility of the venue, not the funeral director, to collect details, should that be deemed necessary.