Public Health England and leading faith leaders have suggested that funerals should uphold social distancing guidance by severely limiting those able to attend.


Funeral directors and faith leaders are set to restrict the number of mourners to the deceased’s household.


The guidance has also suggested that death rituals or practices involving mourners coming into close contact with the body to cease as there could still be a risk of transmission from the deceased person.


Those displaying symptoms are also encouraged to stay away from others, even if that means they miss the funeral of a loved one.


Professor Paul Cosford CB, Emeritus Medical Director, Public Health England, said:


“Losing a loved one is a sad and distressing experience and funerals are important and personal. During this very difficult time for the country, our aim is to protect the most vulnerable from the spread of coronavirus.


“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.”


Professor Jim McManus, Director of Public Health for Hertfordshire, said:


“It is natural to wish to be with people we love and have lost in death. It may be felt as an additional cruelty that such physical closeness, while providing solace for our loss, may spread the virus still further. Only skilled and sensitive local care can help console people through such compound pain and loss.”


Mohamed Omer, board member of Gardens of Peace, said:


“We welcome the new guidance from PHE and would like to reiterate that it is essential that we maintain social distancing at all times, including at funerals. We should also severely curtail the numbers who attend the funerals so as to ensure that staff working at burial sites and others are protected. If circumstances dictate then we should contemplate, as hard as it may seem, no attendees at funeral time.


“It is also welcoming to note that we can perform our ritual wash as long as we observe the necessary precautions of wearing the right PPE and follow the process included in this guideline. It is hoped that there will be uniformity now in the whole system so that there is no confusion and conflicting reports on the risk of handling a COVID-19 deceased person.”


Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said:


“It is a central issue for the Jewish community that we honour and respect our departed loved ones while protecting the living. Our community introduced new strictures on handling the deceased in order to do this immediately after the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.


“This thorough and considerate guidance from government supports the Jewish community’s safeguarding actions to date, and we are grateful to the government for their continued efforts to preserve lives and community life.”