Mourners banned from hugging at funerals in strict rules to combat coronavirus

By | March 20, 2020

Mourners are advised not to kiss or hug at funerals as one of Britain’s biggest crematorium operators brings in strict rules to combat coronavirus after UK death toll reaches 108

  • Private crematorium operator introduced  distancing measures for funerals
  • Said they would not be restricting the amount of mourners able to attend 
  • Social distancing has been advised by experts in order to stop the spread 
  • One funeral director said he would offer to live stream services for people  
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Those grieving the death of their loved ones will be advised against physically consoling each other due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Social distancing guidelines have been advised by experts that suggest people should space out and where possible give each other up to two metres of space. 

Alternative greetings have also been one suggestion to stop the spread of the virus.

Now because of the illness, mourners attending funeral services will not asked not to be too close to each other. 

The Westerleigh Group – one of the largest operators of private crematoriums in the UK – introduced the strict social distancing measures for all future funerals as fears over COVID-19 intensify. 

People attending funeral services will no longer be able to embrace each other (stock image above)

People attending funeral services will no longer be able to embrace each other (stock image above)

The Westerleigh Group  (pictured above) - one of the largest operators of private crematoriums in the UK - introduced the strict social distancing measures

The Westerleigh Group  (pictured above) – one of the largest operators of private crematoriums in the UK – introduced the strict social distancing measures

The virus has already killed 108 people in the UK and there have been 2,626 confirmed cases.      

A spokesman said: ‘We are not restricting the number of mourners, but we are asking everyone to observe a sensible space between each other when they attend a service.

‘We are also asking for anyone who has the symptoms of the coronavirus not to attend any services.

‘We want to reduce the chances of the virus being passed on.

‘We will ask mourners to avoid hand-shaking and hugging, which we understand is difficult at such a time, and we will also be encouraging hand-washing at the facilities we have made available.’

In a statement the company said: ‘We are monitoring the situation with Coronavirus (COVID-19) very closely and will continue to adhere to the Government’s advice in our ongoing planning. Our aim remains to offer the best possible service to the bereaved whilst ensuring that we are prepared for any further escalation in the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘The safety and wellbeing of our staff, our Funeral Director colleagues and the public are of paramount importance. We have already implemented a number of measures to help mitigate risk, and we will continue to review the situation in line with Government advice’.

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The guidance has been passed on to all local funeral directors over the changes although the company stressed that the number of services will not be reduced.

The Westerleigh Group was established in 1992 with the development of a 25-acre site in Westerleigh, Bristol.

Since then the company’s portfolio has grown to sites on the outskirts of towns and cities across the UK.

The company looks after more than 40,000 funerals each year.

The implementation of social distancing by the company comes as people across the country, especially in London, were criticised for still using pubs, bars and restaurants, despite the government advising against unnecessary activity. 

One funeral director today claimed he would be offering live streams of cremation services.  

Martin and Elizabeth Rowley (pictured above with their dog) are offering to pay the £62 fee that is usually charged for an online broadcast of their services

Martin and Elizabeth Rowley (pictured above with their dog) are offering to pay the £62 fee that is usually charged for an online broadcast of their services 

Martin Rowley, who runs Rowley & Sons, in York, is offering to pay the £62 fee which York Crematorium usually charges for services to be broadcast online.

Mr Rowley, who has run his family business for the last seven years said it would help grieving relatives say goodbye to their loved ones even if they are self-isolating.

Mr Rowley, said: ‘We have decided to do this so that there’s no need for families to have extra costs.

‘There has been no increase in business as such although that will probably happen.

‘The biggest impact on our businesses has been uncertainty from families who come to us and ask whether the funeral will go ahead or not or if there are restrictions.

‘Anyone who is vulnerable or self-isolating can at least watch the service.

‘We also have a small chapel of rest so if mourners felt they didn’t want to go to the crematorium, they are welcome to have the service here and have a more intimate service.’

Mr Rowley, who undertakes 230 funerals a year, added that he had been in discussions with the City of York Council after fearing that they may want to restrict the number of people that are at a funeral.

He added: ‘This is why live streaming is important.’

Speaking of how Coronavirus could affect funerals, Mr Rowley said: ‘The actual cremation service will continue and will not be affected at all, it’s an essential service that is necessary at all times.

‘You could argue that it’s going to be necessary over the next few months.’

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He said he expects there to be an increase in calls for the live streaming of services, and that other funeral directors in York are offering a similar service.

Funeral of an elderly man who was one of Britain’s first coronavirus victims will be held in Greenwich this week with no more than five family allowed to attend to reduce risk of infections

By Tom Pyman for MailOnline

The funeral of one of the UK’s first coronavirus victims is to be held this week – but no more than five family members will be there to reduce the risk of further infection.

The elderly man, who has not been named, died last weekend and meticulous measures are being carried out for the ceremony in Greenwich, south east London, according to undertakers. 

W. Uden and Sons says it has restricted services to the very closest loved ones in order to adhere to government guidelines of preventing mass gatherings of more than 100 people. 

Funeral director Matthew Uden, 35, said: ‘It’s much more difficult to organise with all that’s going on. We have been advised to be very cautious.

A funeral service, pictured, is being held for one of the UK's first coronavirus victims this week - but no more than five family members will be there to reduce the risk of further infection

A funeral service, pictured, is being held for one of the UK’s first coronavirus victims this week – but no more than five family members will be there to reduce the risk of further infection

 ‘The person we collected yesterday was in a body bag beforehand and we were wearing masks and protective suits to bring them back to the morgue.

‘There’s only going to be four or five very close immediate family members at the very small funeral. 

‘They are absolutely fine with that and decided it between themselves before they contacted us.

‘The loss of a loved one is never easy and putting restrictions upon a family that is already grieving is not something that we want to do.

‘They have coped really well and it is nice to see that this family has understood the unprecedented situation they and everyone else finds themselves in.

‘The family were told they can’t see their loved one again but they were able to say goodbye at the hospital.’

Mourners who can’t attend will be offered a live-stream service so they can grieve remotely from the safety of self-isolation.

Meanwhile, anyone physically attending a funeral must wash their hands before entering the venue, used tissues need to be disposed of safely and staff have been told to refrain from physical contact with mourners.

Grieving families looking to arrange a funeral must now call instead of popping into one of the company’s seven offices and give the cause of death before being brought to the mortuary.

Mr Uden’s firm, which is based in south east London and Kent and has served families since 1881, has experienced a dramatic increase in calls as the pandemic continues to sweep Britain.

Cleaning regimes having increased across the board to prevent the spread of the virus and mourners are regularly encouraged to follow NHS guidance.

Mr Uden, who has worked at the family business for 20 years and been involved his whole life, added: ‘They are in a really tricky situation. Even the experts don’t really know what the right procedure is. 

‘I’ve never seen anything like this in my time as a funeral director.

‘People are saying we are in the right business but that is absolutely not correct. We are on the front line and have got to be there for people as they’re not going to stop dying.

Mourners who attend the service will be urged to wash their hands, and follow other NHS guidance, such as this posted, pictured at Manchester Victoria station

Mourners who attend the service will be urged to wash their hands, and follow other NHS guidance, such as this posted, pictured at Manchester Victoria station

‘Already I am telling families that only close family and friends can come to funerals and already in the past week, there has been declining numbers in people attending. The less people that turn up the better really.

‘The Church of England has already decided they are not doing church services so we have had to cancel those.

‘People are being encouraged to arrange funerals over the phone instead of coming in to the office because the least contact we can have the better but we still want to give them the best send-off possible.

‘We are making sure we are doing all we can and visually show that to reassure the public. 

‘Everything is regularly cleaned and we’ve got anti-bacterial wipes in all the offices and cars. 

London landmarks such as Trafalgar Square, pictured, have been seen deserted this week following government advice for people to stay at home

London landmarks such as Trafalgar Square, pictured, have been seen deserted this week following government advice for people to stay at home

‘We need to have extra measures to keep our staff safe and protect the families that we are caring for.

‘We are normally a busy family-run business but we are experiencing an increase in volume of phone calls from family members asking whether their funerals will be going ahead and whether they should take any additional precautions, and indeed whether they should limit the number of mourners in attendance.

‘During this week alone we are looking after more than 45 funerals, only one of those is a death from coronavirus. 

‘People do not stop dying and we need to keep helping our community.’


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