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New guidance to ensure funerals are conducted safely

New guidance to ensure funerals are conducted safely has been published by Public Health England (PHE).

This new guidance to ensure funerals are conducted safely has been developed in collaboration between PHE and faith leaders. The guidelines will protect mourners, communities, the funeral industry and the NHS from further transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) and are consistent with social distancing principles, during this challenging time.

Coronavirus is an infectious disease and can be more easily transmitted when large groups of people congregate. However, with certain precautions funerals should continue to take place, allowing them to take place with dignity and respect for the deceased and their families.

Under the new guidance to ensure funerals are conducted safely:

  • Funeral directors and faith leaders are advised to restrict the number of mourners who attend funerals, so a safe distance of at least two metres (about six feet) can be maintained
  • Only members of the deceased person’s household or close family members should attend funerals
  • If the deceased has neither family nor household in attendance, it is possible for a modest number of friends to attend
  • Any individual displaying symptoms of COVID-19 should not attend.
  • Those attending must always follow social distancing advice, including when travelling to and from the funeral.

In addition, because of the small, but real, risk of transmission from the body of a deceased person, mourners are strongly advised not to take part in any rituals or practices that bring them into close contact with the body of a person who has died from, or with, symptoms of COVID-19.

Practices that involve close personal contact with the deceased should only be carried out using the correct personal protective equipment (PPE).

Councillor Mik Sabiers, the council’s cabinet member for environment and highways, said: “Losing a loved one is a distressing experience at any time, and funerals are an important and personal part of the grieving process. During this very difficult period, however, we must also do all we can to protect the most vulnerable and prevent the further spread of coronavirus.

“This updated national guidance will sadly limit the number of mourners able to attend the funeral of a loved one. But by sticking to the social distancing advice, this guidance will importantly allow members of our community to pay their final respects in a dignified way while also preserving other lives.”

The guidance assists professionals such as coroners, pathologists, funeral directors and others in their work. There is also guidance for GPs managing a death outside of a healthcare setting and for those in the community or in residential care settings.

The full guidance is available to read on the UK government website.

Information on how to register a death due to COVID-19 can be found on the Ealing Council coronavirus page.

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