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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-managing-a-funeral-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/covid-19-guidance-for-managing-a-funeral-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic
The government has set out a roadmap out of lockdown in England. At all steps in the roadmap, people are permitted to leave their homes to attend a funeral as well as other religious, belief-based, or commemorative events following a person’s death, as long as they follow the relevant restrictions and guidance.
Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people. At Step 2 from 12 April, the number permitted to attend religious, belief-based or commemorative events following a person’s death, such as stone setting ceremonies, the scattering of ashes or a wake, has increased to up to 15 people. In this guidance, the phrase ‘commemorative events’ will be used to refer to such events.
This guidance is of a general nature and should be treated as a guide. In the event of conflict between any applicable legislation (including the health and safety legislation) and this guidance, the applicable legislation shall prevail.
This guidance applies in England. It remains under review and may be updated in line with the changing situation.
This guidance has been developed to make sure that:
- bereaved people are treated with sensitivity, dignity and respect
- funerals can continue to take place while minimising the risk of infection
The advice is designed to assist members of the public who are attending or involved in organising a funeral in England during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
It is for people of any faith, or none, and aims to balance the needs of the bereaved to mourn, with the need to minimise the spread of COVID-19 infection. While recognising the importance of these rituals and gatherings, the actions detailed in this guidance are important in reducing the spread of infection, particularly to clinically extremely vulnerable people who may be at risk of severe illness.
The risk of COVID-19 spread increases whenever households mix. A household is defined as those people who live together under the same roof and who share facilities. A support bubble is defined as a close support network which links 2 eligible households.
For further information on support bubbles, please refer to the guidance on making a support bubble with another household. Any mourners who are not part of the same household or support bubble should follow guidance on how to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in addition to those outlined here.
For deaths where COVID-19 infection was present, household members of the deceased person may have already been exposed to the virus. However, you should take steps to minimise any new exposure, especially where people who are not part of the household, and those at risk of severe illness, may come into contact with the virus.
Guidance for venue managers and event organisers involved in professionally arranging a funeral is available through the website for the Advisory Group on the Management of the Deceased.
Guidance from 12 April
From 12 April, at Step 2 of the roadmap out of lockdown, some of the rules on what you can and cannot do changed. However, many restrictions remain in place. For further information, please refer to coronavirus restrictions: what you can and cannot do. Both funerals and commemorative events are permitted to take place.
Funeral ceremonies must have no more than 30 people attending, whether indoors or outdoors. This number does not include anyone working at the event.
The actual number of people able to attend will depend on how many people can be safely accommodated within the venue with social distancing, and where the funeral venue manager or event organiser 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.
Commemorative events must have no more than 15 people attending. This limit applies both indoors and outdoors and does not include anyone working at the event.
When attending an event, you should remain socially distanced from anyone outside your household or support bubble and should follow guidance on how to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Social distancing and keeping safe
If you are attending a funeral or similar event, you should:
- stay at least 2 metres away from others outside your household or support bubble
- wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser
- avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- when coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue and throw away the tissue safely. If you do not have a tissue, use the crook of your elbow (not hands) to cough or sneeze into
- wear a face covering, as required by law when attending indoor places of worship, crematoriums and burial ground chapels unless you are exempt for health, disability or other reasons. You should also wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing may be difficult and where you may come into contact with people you do not normally meet. There is additional guidance on the use of face coverings
- if the event is taking place indoors, avoid singing, shouting, chanting and raising your voice because this may increase the risk of airborne transmission of the virus. If the event is taking place outdoors, you may join in with singing
If you are organising a funeral or commemorative event, you should:
- consider inviting close friends and family only, to reduce the risk of spreading infection
- ensure other mourners are aware if there is a clinically extremely vulnerable person attending. They should be respectful of the vulnerable person’s need to avoid close contact at any point
- try to facilitate remote participation (for example, by live-streaming), particularly for anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable
- ensure that any socially distanced vocal or instrumental contributions take place safely, whether indoors or outdoors. If the event is taking place indoors, a single small group of singers is allowed to perform. This should be limited to as few singers as possible, with social distancing being maintained at all times. Communal singing should not take place inside but if the event is taking place outside, the congregation may join in with singing. Further guidance for the safe use of places of worship, principles for safer singing and performing arts is available and should be followed
- ensure spoken addresses to the mourners or their responses during a ceremony are not in a raised voice
Who can attend a funeral?
Funeral ceremonies must have no more than 30 people attending, whether indoors or outdoors. This number does not include anyone working at the event.
The actual number of people able to attend will depend on how many people can be accommodated safely within the premises with social distancing, and where the venue manager or event organiser 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. Keeping overall numbers as low as possible will reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Limits for funeral ceremonies held as part of communal worship will be defined by the venue’s COVID-19 risk assessment. Where the event is taking place indoors, you must not mingle with anyone outside your household or support bubble. Guidance on places of worship is available.
People with symptoms of COVID-19 should not attend
Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 (a new continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell), should not attend a funeral. You should immediately self-isolate, follow the stay at home guidance, and request a test online, or by contacting NHS 119 via telephone if you do not have internet access.
People who are required to self-isolate
Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms or is self-isolating due to a positive test result or having been instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, should not attend a funeral due to the risk you pose to others.
By following instructions to self-isolate, you will be protecting family, friends, colleagues and other people around you, and will play a direct role in stopping the spread of the virus.
Follow the guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus infection. Guidance for contacts of people with confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection who do not live with the person is also available.
If you are legally required to self-isolate, you may only break self-isolation to attend a funeral if it is of a close family member (for example, a partner, parent, sibling, child or grandparent).
You must not break your isolation to attend other commemorative events under any circumstance. This would be a legal offence and you may be fined. You must otherwise continue to self-isolate unless there are other circumstances present that legally allow you not to.
Even if you are a close family member of the deceased (for example a partner, parent, sibling, child or grandparent), you are strongly advised to attend remotely if possible, for example through a video link. However, if after very careful consideration of the risk, you choose to attend a funeral in person, it is essential that you take all of the following precautions:
- advise the funeral venue manager, event organiser and other mourners in advance that you are in your self-isolation period. It is a legal requirement for a venue manager to complete a risk assessment and take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Other mourners need to be aware of this prior to attending
- take extra care to keep your distance and avoid contact with another mourner who may be clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable
- maintain a distance of at least 2 metres at all times between yourself and other mourners
Practise strict hand and respiratory hygiene by:
- wearing a surgical-grade Type IIR face mask or higher grade, properly fitting, to minimise any risk of viral transmission from yourself to others. If a respirator mask is used (for example N95), this should be non-valved. Type IIR masks are widely available from pharmacies, supermarkets and online retailers. You are advised to provide your own face mask, but those organising the funeral may also want to ensure they have some in stock
- washing your hands more often than usual with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using a hand sanitiser
- avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- covering your coughs or sneezes
Mourners who are clinically extremely vulnerable
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you will have received a letter (a formal NHS notification) to inform you of this and you may have been advised to shield in the past.
You are strongly advised to continue to take extra precautions to protect yourself and participate remotely where this is possible. If you do choose to attend a funeral in person, you should inform those organising the funeral and it is important that you maintain strict social distancing and follow the guidance on protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19 in addition to this guidance. You should practise rigorous hand and respiratory hygiene in addition to wearing a face covering, and should keep social interactions low.
Mourners coming from outside England
Where international travel to the UK is allowed, if you have arrived in England from countries outside the Common Travel Area (which is made up of UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), you must quarantine for 10 days since you were last in a country outside the Common Travel Area. For further detail please see guidance on how to quarantine at home when you arrive in England.
If you have travelled to England from a country not on the travel ban list, you may leave your place of self-isolation in limited circumstances, including on compassionate grounds. This may include attending a funeral of a household member or a close family member, or a friend (if neither household member or close family member can attend the funeral). You must continue to self-isolate at all other times.
If you are travelling to England having been in or through any country on the travel ban list (also called the ‘red list travel ban countries’) you will typically be refused entry to the UK, unless you are a British or Irish national, or have residence rights in the UK. If permitted to arrive in England from a red list travel ban country you must quarantine in a government approved ‘managed quarantine hotel’ from arrival until at least 10 days have passed since you were outside the country.
For those in managed quarantine, you may request permission to attend the funeral of a close family member or a member of your household. If you test positive during your managed quarantine period, you are strongly advised not to attend a funeral in person and attend virtually where possible, due to the risk you pose to others. For further detail, please see guidance on booking and staying in a quarantine hotel when you arrive in England.
Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 (a new continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell), should not attend a funeral.
If after carefully assessing the risk you pose to others, you choose to attend the funeral in person, and receive the relevant permission to leave managed quarantine, you should strictly follow the precautions outlined above for ‘People who are required to self-isolate.’ Travel to and from managed quarantine should be in private transport and the details logged with security staff.
Please see the latest advice on travel bans, coronavirus testing and self-isolating on arrival in England.
Travelling to and from a funeral
People in the same support bubble can stay overnight with each other as they count as one household. Hotels may also remain open for the purposes of providing accommodation for those attending a funeral or commemorative event. Anyone who does not live in the same household or support bubble should remain socially distanced within the accommodation.
You should travel to the venue in private transport where possible, by yourself or with people from your household or support bubble. If this is not possible, you must not car share with those outside your household or support bubble.
You are advised to follow the safer travel guidance by:
- keeping to a small group of your household or support bubble if you need to use public transport
- opening windows for fresh air
- considering seating arrangements to maximise the distance between people in the vehicle
- travelling side-by-side or behind other people, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow
- facing away from each other
- making sure the car is cleaned between journeys using standard cleaning products, particularly door handles and other areas that people may touch
- wearing a face covering. You are required by law to wear a face covering on public transport, in taxis and private hire vehicles unless you are exempt for health, disability or other reasons. Passengers who are not exempt are legally required to wear a face covering when travelling in a funeral director’s vehicle. A face covering is also strongly recommended for drivers. For further information, please refer to the guidance on face coverings: when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make your own
If you are leaving self-isolation or quarantine to attend the funeral you should avoid using public transport if possible.
Linked religious, belief-based or commemorative events
In this guidance, the phrase ‘commemorative events’ is used to refer to religious, belief-based or commemorative events linked to a person’s death, other than a funeral. Stone setting ceremonies, the scattering of ashes and wakes are examples of such events. These may take place before or following the funeral.
From the 12 April, the number permitted to attend commemorative events has increased to up to 15 people. This number applies both indoors and outdoors and does not include anyone working at the event.
If you have been advised to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or are in quarantine after recent international travel, you must not break your isolation to attend any commemorative events. This would be a legal offence and you may be fined.
You may wish to consider delaying commemorative events until restrictions have been lifted.
Where you can hold commemorative events
From 12 April, commemorative events of up to 15 people can take place in a COVID-secure venue that is permitted to open, where the venue manager or event organiser has carried out a risk assessment and taken all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
Venues that can host commemorative events include community centres, places of worship, burial grounds, cemeteries and crematoriums. Areas of exhibition centres, conference centres and holiday accommodation that are not bars and restaurants, conference halls or meeting rooms, may also be rented for this purpose.
Some buildings or rooms within a larger, closed visitor attraction or hospitality venue can also be rented for this purpose, where the venue itself doesn’t function as part of the visitor attraction or hospitality venue. In these cases, there would need to be direct access to the venue without going through a closed part of the larger site. This does not generally include rooms or spaces within indoor visitor attractions (for example a room within a heritage site) unless they can be accessed directly from the street, or open outdoor areas of the venue.
In all of the cases noted above, all indoor hospitality, including any part of the premises ordinarily used for the consumption of food or drink indoors must remain closed. This means, for example, that a commemorative event can take place in the function room of a hotel, but not the restaurant.
Outdoor venues may be partially sheltered, such as marquees, but cannot be enclosed or substantially enclosed. To be considered ‘outdoors’, shelters, marquees and other structures can have a roof but need to have at least 50% of the area of their walls open at all times whilst in use.
If the event is taking place inside a private dwelling, only members of the household or support bubble can attend.
If the event is taking place in an outdoor private space, such as a garden, the number of people permitted to attend is limited to 6 people, or a larger group if everyone present is from the same 2 households (a household can include an existing support bubble, where eligible). You should maintain strict social distancing from anyone outside of your household or support bubble at all times.
Food and drink at commemorative events
At Step 2, food and drink can only be provided by the venue if the commemorative event is taking place outdoors. Hospitality venues must not serve food and drink to be consumed indoors. You may provide your own light refreshments if the event takes place indoors, but these cannot be provided by the venue.
At the event, you should remain seated, socially distanced from those outside your household or support bubble, with table service provided to support social distancing and to minimise any risk of infection. You should not touch communal or shared objects, or handle items other than your own (for example, avoid the use of shared cutlery, dishes or service sheets).
Sharing food should be avoided and other actions to reduce the risk of transmission should also be considered, for example, use of pre-wrapped food where not provided by the venue. You should ensure that social distancing measures are observed at all times and guidance on the use of face coverings is also followed.
Personal care of deceased people
You are advised not to take part in rituals or practices that bring you into close contact with the deceased. If your faith requires you to have close contact with the deceased, you need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) under the supervision of someone who is trained in the appropriate use of PPE.
Detailed guidance on care of the deceased should be followed, regardless of the setting in which personal care of the deceased is provided.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you are strongly advised to avoid contact with the body of the deceased, even if you can wear PPE. This includes washing, preparing or dressing the body.
Experiencing grief or bereavement
Whenever the loss of a friend or loved one happens, it can be an extremely difficult and challenging time. This may be even more difficult if you are experiencing bereavement and grief during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You may struggle not just with the bereavement, but with the impact of social distancing measures and the fact that you may not be able to say goodbye in the way that you would have wanted.
After a bereavement, you may feel waves of intense emotions as you come to terms with the loss. These can include sadness, guilt, shock and anger. All are common and there is no right or wrong way to feel. Grief affects everyone in different ways, but the important thing is to grieve and to have the right support to do this.
Learn more about grief and support available through the NHS, Cruse Bereavement Care, which offers advice and support on dealing with bereavement and grief during the COVID-19 pandemic and AtaLoss.org, which provides signposting and services across the UK.
If you are supporting a bereaved child or young person, the Childhood Bereavement Network has information and links to national and local organisations.
The Health Protection Regulations
This document is guidance.
The law is contained in the following Health Protection Regulations for England in 2020:
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021
- Wearing of face coverings in a relevant place (amended)
- Coronavirus restrictions on self-isolation
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) (Schedule B1A) (Managed Quarantine)
For the position of what is lawful, you should refer specifically to the relevant regulations above.