Safe funerals overview
As COVID-19 pandemic unfolds across the UK, we are seeing more unfortunate deaths of our local residents.
We are working with local partners across the borough and North London to ensure that we have plans in place to support people in such a difficult circumstances.
Consideration to faith is given a central focus nationally and locally. Faith leaders have been consulted nationally and worked with Public Health England (PHE) to ensure that communities, the funeral industry and the NHS are safe while funerals are organised and undertaken across the country while pandemic is ongoing.
National PHE guidelines for funerals
The National PHE guidelines for funerals suggest the following measures are taken:
Number of mourners
To help reduce the risk of spreading the infection, funeral directors and faith leaders are advised to restrict the number of mourners who attend funerals, so a safe distance of at least 2 meters (6 feet) can be maintained between individuals.
Who can attend the funeral
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.
Rituals and practices that involve close personal contact
The guidance advises that since there is a 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).
Faith leaders comment on PHE guidance
Mohamed Omer, board member of Gardens of Peace, said:
“We welcome the new guidance from PHE and would like to reiterate that it is essential that we maintain social distancing at all times, including at funerals. We should also severely curtail the numbers who attend the funerals so as to ensure that staff working at burial sites and others are protected. If circumstances dictate then we should contemplate, as hard as it may seem, no attendees at funeral time.
“It is also 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. It is hoped that there will be uniformity now in the whole system so that there is no confusion and conflicting reports on the risk of handling a COVID-19 deceased person.”
Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said:
“It is a central issue for the Jewish community that we honour and respect our departed loved ones while protecting the living. Our community introduced new strictures on handling the deceased in order to do this immediately after the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“This thorough and considerate guidance from government supports the Jewish community’s safeguarding actions to date, and we are grateful to the government for their continued efforts to preserve lives and community life.”