What impact is the Coronavirus having on funerals in the UK?

What impact is the Coronavirus having on funerals in the UK? main image

Coronavirus is already impacting funerals in the UK. Sadly, as the death total increases, government restrictions, overseen by funeral industry organisations such as the National Association of Funeral Directors the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities and the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management will only get tighter.   

Whether you’re in the difficult position of arranging a funeral or not, coronavirus has forced many of us to consider our own mortality. We have certainly seen an increase in visitors to the Over50choices website researching funeral planning and preplanning options, especially direct cremation.

The following information explains how coronavirus has already affected funerals, the restrictions in place and alternative funeral options you may want to consider.

Are funerals still allowed in the UK?

Funerals are still allowed in the UK but with restrictions based on the government’s coronavirus guidance on hygiene and social distancing. One of the main restrictions is the number of attendees at the funeral service. This is upsetting but thankfully easier than in Italy where funerals have been banned completely.

Unfortunately, as with everything related to coronavirus, the situation changes daily. We can only hope that by adhering to the government’s guidelines, these restrictions won’t be tightened further.

What are the coronavirus restrictions on funerals?

The coronavirus restrictions on funerals relate to funeral directors and crematoriums alike, meaning a change to their usual processes. As a result, the way you arrange a funeral and the funeral service itself have been impacted.

As mentioned, one of the main changes is that the funeral service is limited to a small group of close relatives, including:

  • Spouse / partner
  • Parents / carers
  • Brothers / sisters
  • Children (and partners)

If the deceased has few relatives but close friends, it is acceptable for them to attend the funeral service. Most crematoriums and funeral directors limit attendees to 10 people however this can vary. The main issue being to allow for social distancing of 2 metres.

What are the coronavirus guidelines for arranging funerals?

The coronavirus restrictions for arranging a funeral are as follows:

  • Where possible funerals should now be arranged over the phone or via the internet.
  • Funeral directors will no longer visit your home to make arrangements.
  • Where necessary a funeral can be arranged at the funeral directors, however social distancing must be respected and most funeral directors will only allow two people at any one time.
  • At risk groups are asked not to attend the chapel of rest, or the funeral service.
  • It is still possible to visit the deceased at the chapel of rest but only by appointment with the funeral director.
  • You are not able to visit the deceased however if they died of coronavirus.
  • The funeral service should not be advertised to reduce the risk of additional mourners attending.

What are the coronavirus guidelines for funeral services?

The coronavirus restrictions for the funeral service are as follows:

  • No church services. All places of worship are now closed.
  • Limited use of limousines for family. Although due to social distancing measures, many funeral directors have stopped using limousines altogether.
  • Where possible there should be no carrying the coffin.
  • Anyone self-isolating cannot attend a funeral.
  • Mourners must remain two metres apart with no physical contact with anyone outside of your household.
  • Some crematoriums may also ask you not to touch the coffin.
  • There should be no reception or wake after the funeral service as currently no gatherings are allowed.

As yet, the length of the funeral service has not been impacted. However this may depend on the crematorium as they could require more time between services for cleaning.

Also, as mortality rates increase, we may see a reduction in the length of the service but also less flexibility when arranging the date and time of the funeral too.

Live streaming funeral services

Demand for live streaming funeral services has started to increase in the UK, especially for family living overseas. However, with the spread of coronavirus and imposed restrictions on the number of people allowed to attend a funeral, is live streaming funerals set to become the norm?

Not all crematoriums have the facility to live stream funerals via a private web link to non-attendees, however your funeral director should be able to advise you on the facilities available. Alternatively, there are companies that offer live streaming and webcast services but this could end up costing you more.     

Direct cremation – the alternative funeral

Direct cremation is already a popular alternative to a traditional funeral, that appeals to those not wanting the fuss of a funeral service at the crematorium. Since coronavirus started making headline news, we have seen demand for this simple fuss free cremation only option grow and grow.

A direct cremation is a dignified cremation without family or friends present. It gives families the flexibility to say goodbye their way at a time to suit everyone. So, with coronavirus restricting the way funerals are carried out, holding a celebration of life, family gathering or memorial service at a later a date when all the family can attend could provide a comforting alternative.

These are difficult times. The loss of a loved one is always hard but now all the more upsetting given the current situation. Please remember that if you’re arranging a funeral, physical contact with funeral directors may be restricted however as always they are still there to support you. And if you’re struggling to come to terms with a loss, amazing organisations such as Cruse bereavement are on hand to help.   

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Frequently asked questions

How many people can attend a funeral?

The number of people currently able to attend a funeral will depend on the funeral director and the crematorium. However most funeral directors have a limit of 10 people.

Can I go to a funeral?

You can go to a funeral if you don’t have Covid-19 and are not self-isolating. However, as the number of attendees is limited, this should only be by invitation.

Who can register the death?

New government coronavirus guidelines have relaxed the rules regarding who can register the death to include the funeral director acting on behalf of the family.

Can I delay the funeral?

As we don’t know how long coronavirus is going to affect our every day lives, delaying the funeral is not advisable. That’s not to say you can’t arrange a wake, memorial service or family gathering for a later date, once normality has resumed.

Can I still visit the crematorium?

In line with government guidelines, crematoriums are closed to all activity apart from prearranged funeral services. They may allow you to attend the garden of remembrance on special occasions such as anniversaries however you would need to contact the crematorium in question first.

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