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Funerals during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • 19 November 2020
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Walsall Council recognises that losing a loved one at any time is traumatic, but it has been even more difficult during the current pandemic, with limits on the numbers who can attend funerals. We would also like to acknowledge the work done by faith leaders and funeral directors, who have done their utmost to assist grieving family and friends lay their loved ones to rest with dignity within the current restrictions.

Councillor Garry Perry, Deputy Leader for Resilient Communities said:

“The support and co-operation of Walsall’s faith communities in providing help, assistance and comfort to some of the borough’s most vulnerable at the peak of the pandemic has not gone unnoticed.”

“Despite promising indications in the development of new vaccines to counter the virus, the United Kingdom and indeed the rest of the world is a very long way from being safe to go about our daily lives in the way we would all wish to.”

“Our communities need to remain vigilant, particularly at times of bereavement, when larger numbers of people would normally congregate and console one another. The importance of abiding by social distancing rules has now become even more critical as we work to control infection rates as winter approaches.”

It was announced by Government that, from 5 November 2020, funerals can still take place in places of worship, cemeteries and crematoria with strict limits on the number of mourners.

By law funeral ceremonies must have no more than 30 people attending, whether indoors or outdoors. This number does not include funeral staff.

Funeral services that do not abide by the regulations can be shut down by the police with fines of up to £10,000. In extreme circumstances, organisers can be prosecuted and face an even greater fine imposed by a court.

Councillor Perry added:

“Please be aware that even though up to 30 people can legally attend a funeral, it might not be safe for all to do so. I can only imagine how heart-breaking this is for families who are grieving and my heart genuinely goes out to them, but please think not just about yourself, but others you may then, or later, be in contact with.”

“We are now in the second wave of COVID-19 and seeing a continued increase both in the number of positive cases in the borough but also a very significant, and concerning, increase in hospital admissions. We need to take this very seriously, because we know that community transmission–mixing with others–is a huge part of that.”

If places of worship, funeral directors or families require any further advice or guidance about funerals at any Walsall Council venue they are advised to contact BereavementServices@walsall.gov.uk

 

Note to Editors

Government guidance states:

Funeral ceremonies must have no more than 30 people attending, whether indoors or outdoors. This number does not include funeral staff.  The actual number of people able to attend will depend on how many people can be safely accommodated within the premises with social distancing, and where the funeral venue manager has carried out a risk assessment and taken all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of COVID-19. In some cases, this may be fewer than 30 people.

This guidance is underpinned by The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020, part 3, section 11.13 which states:

(13) Exception 10 is that—

(a) the gathering is for the purposes of a funeral,

(b) the gathering consists of no more than 30 persons,

(c) the gathering takes place at premises, other than a private dwelling, which—

     (i) are operated by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body, or

     (ii) are part of premises used for the operation of a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body, and

(d) the gathering organiser or manager takes the required precautions in relation to the gathering (see regulation 14)”

Bereavement and Registration Services has continued to advertise the permitted attendance levels to service users by:

  • Updating the funeral directors, memorial masons and faith groups, includes the Union of Muslim Organisations, Muslim Burial Committee and Walsall Helping Hands;
  • Keeping council web pages up to date, mentioning the maximum number of attendees in several places;
  • Placing notices on the crematorium and cemetery gates and in the crematorium waiting areas; and
  • Staff members give advice to callers and/or visitors to the sites when they are approached.

In addition to our efforts, colleagues in our Resilience Unit sit on a regional group which also communicates attendance levels and other local restrictions / requirements to funeral directors.

All funeral venues must complete a risk assessment. This will include identifying the total number of people who are allowed into the premises whilst ensuring that social distancing of 2 metres is maintained. It will also ensure that all preventative measures have been taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19.   Where possible it is advisable to keep the overall numbers as low as possible to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Residents who are clinically extremely vulnerable will have received a letter from the NHS.  These individuals are more at risk of having complications, or even dying, if they catch COVID-19. Therefore, we urge all those in this category to stay at home as much as possible.

If these individuals still choose to attend a funeral, they should inform the organisers. They should also:

  • maintain strict social distancing by staying 2 metres from anyone who they do not live with;
  • practise rigorous hand and respiratory hygiene;
  • wear a face covering if you are not exempt;
  • minimise social interactions; and
  • travel to the venue in a car by themselves, or with someone from their household or support bubble, avoiding public transport if possible.
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