Governments Love Old People so Much They’re Starting to Ban Funerals — No Chapel Services or Families at Cremations
UK municipalities leading the way
A number of councils are banning funeral ceremonies because of the coronavirus crisis.
Bradford, Leeds and Kirklees councils have said families will no longer be able to attend services at crematoria. Instead the councils will offer “direct cremations”, in which there is no ceremony and mourners are not present; and burial services at gravesides, with a maximum of 10 mourners observing physical distancing guidelines.
The new rules will take effect from Monday in Kirklees and Bradford. Leeds has been offering direct cremations only for the past two weeks.
There have been increasing reports of people being buried or cremated with no immediate family present. On Friday, Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, 13, who died of the coronavirus at Kings College hospital, in south London, was buried without his mother or six siblings present as they were isolating after a brother and sister became symptomatic.
Government guidelines, drawn up in conjunction with ethicists and faith leaders, permit close family members to attend funerals while observing physical distancing.
The Church of England has banned church funeral services, saying immediate family only may attend at gravesides, and that burials can be livestreamed to other relatives and friends.
In a statement, Bradford council said the decision to end funeral services had been “very difficult”.
Cllr Sarah Ferriby said: “These are unprecedented times. I never thought that we would have to make the sad decisions which we are having to make in terms of the services we provide. Our first consideration is that we have to protect people from this virus to ensure that the health and wellbeing of those that we work with, the public, council staff, partners and stakeholders is protected.”
The council said it would be reducing its cremation charges to reflect the fact that no chapel services will be permitted.
A spokesperson for Kirklees council said: “Whilst the council will no longer offer a full funeral service or allow families to come into the crematoria, it hopes that providing the opportunity for a vicar or celebrant to say a prayer or a few words in the chapel will bring some comfort to families and loved ones.”
All three councils suggested that families could hold a celebration of life or similar service later in the year when their facilities were available again.
Guidance published last week by Public Health England advised funeral directors and faith leaders to restrict the number of mourners who attend funerals, and to ensure people stayed at least two metres apart. [No expressing of condolences!]
It said: “Only members of the deceased person’s household or close family members should attend funerals. Any individual displaying symptoms of Covid-19 should not attend. Those who do attend will need to adhere to social distancing at all times, including when travelling to and from the funeral.”
Because of the “small but real risk of of transmission from the body of a deceased person”, rituals or practices that bring mourners into close contact with the deceased should only be carried out with the correct personal protective equipment.
Mohamed Omer, a board member of the Gardens of Peace Muslim cemeteries, said: “It is 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.”
Source: The Guardian