There is an increased risk of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) where families and communities come together following the death of a loved one, from any cause.
Funerals are an important part of grieving for a loved one and can proceed without delay, but it is strongly advised that the actions detailed in the Public Health guidance are taken to reduce the spread of infection.
Hertfordshire is currently in the government’s step 4 of the roadmap out of national lockdown.
There are no legal limits on the number of people who can attend funerals or commemorative events.
Each venue is required to complete a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of COVID-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate these risks. Therefore it is important that you find out how many people can attend the specific venue. Please discuss with your funeral director or the crematorium or cemetery direct.
Although most restrictions have been removed at step 4, it is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19 even if you are fully vaccinated. It is therefore important to take steps to protect yourselves and others from COVID-19. This is particularly true for funerals, where the risk of COVID-19 may be higher due to the attendance of people who are legally exempted from self-isolation or quarantine, who either have or are at higher risk of having COVID-19.
For further information on this exemption, see the section on attending a funeral if you are exempt from self isolation, or quarantine following international travel.
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), must not attend a funeral unless an exemption applies. You must 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.
Some individuals may have a legal exemption to leave self-isolation, or quarantine following recent international travel, in order to attend a funeral. These do not apply to attending a commemorative event.
While cases are high and rising, everybody needs to continue to act carefully and remain cautious. There is government guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 that advises:
- washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitiser throughout the day
- where possible, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. If you do need to touch your face (for example to put on or take off your face covering), wash or sanitise your hands before and after
- covering your mouth and nose with disposable tissues when you cough or sneeze
- if you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not into your hand
- dispose of tissues into a rubbish bag and immediately wash your hands
- getting tested twice a week even if you don’t have symptoms and using the NHS Covid Pass
- letting fresh air in. You may want to consider if you can have the funeral or commemorative event outdoors. Follow the guidance on ventilation of indoor spaces to stop the spread of COVID-19
- using the NHS COVID-19 App
- wearing a face coverings in crowded areas. Government expects and recommends that people do this.
There may be additional risks to consider when attending a funeral.
Social distancing measures no longer apply. This means that you do not need to implement social distancing (2 metres or 1 metre plus with mitigations) at a funeral or a commemorative event. You may wish to consider how to facilitate attendees who wish to keep a safe distance, with particular consideration of people attending from self-isolation or quarantine.
All venues should follow the principles set out in the working safely guidance. They should undertake a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of COVID-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate these risks.
If you are informed that someone is leaving self-isolation or quarantine to attend a funeral, this must be factored into the risk assessment. Those attending a funeral from self-isolation or quarantine should maintain at least 2 metres distance from all other attendees at all times.
The working safely guidance sets out a range of mitigations that should be considered, including:
- cleaning surfaces that people touch regularly
- identifying poorly ventilated areas in the venue and taking steps to improve air flow. It is always worth considering whether you can have the funeral or commemorative event outdoors
- ensuring that staff and customers who are unwell do not attend the venue
- communicating to staff and customers the measures you have put in place.