Coronavirus: Councils ban funeral mourners and cut services to 20 minutes

Joe Gamp
·Contributor, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
The funeral in the Eternal Gardens Muslim Burial Ground, Chislehurst of Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, 13, from Brixton, south London, who died in King's College Hospital in the early hours of Monday after testing positive for coronavirus Friday April 3, 2020. The teenager was buried in the Eternal Gardens at Kemnal Park Cemetery in Chislehurst without his family present as his mother and six siblings are forced to self-isolate. The highly contagious COVID-19 coronavirus has impacted on nations around the globe, many imposing self isolation and exercising social distancing when people move from their homes. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)
Funerals are being drastically impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak affecting the UK. (PA)

Councils in England are taking drastic steps with funeral services during the coronavirus outbreak - with one even banning mourners from attending.

The city of York has banned mourners from attending cremations in the city, while Wakefield council in Leeds has cut all funeral services to 20 minutes.

It comes as the UK recorded its deadliest day yet from the coronavirus pandemic after 953 people died from the virus in 24 hours, taking the total to 9.016.

York City Council has told grieving relatives that, from Thursday, there will be no funeral services in the city, just “direct cremations only”.

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The authority said it was a difficult decision but added there could be up to 14 services a day, meaning that 150 people could visit the crematorium in one day.

York Central MP Rachael Maskell said the City of York Council’s move to stop all funeral services “was a step too far” and a possible breach of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

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The Labour MP said she has raised concerns with the council and Local government Secretary Robert Jenrick.

The UK recorded its deadliest day yet from the coronavirus pandemic on Friday after 953 people died from the virus in 24 hours. (PA)

She said: “At this time some people are unable to be with close family members as they die, and then not being able to be with them at their funeral is a step too far.

“Constituents have shared their heartache over this decision by the council, a council who could institute safe funeral distancing measures as other councils are, like North Yorkshire, which are enabling funerals to go ahead with 10 family members while observing safe social distancing, as set out in the Government guidance.”

​Meanwhile, Wakefield Council has issued new guidance on the length of funeral services at its crematoria in response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

The coffin of Helen Smith arrives at Wakefield Crematorium for her funeral, after she died 30 years ago in Saudi Arabia.   (Photo by John Giles/PA Images via Getty Images)
Wakefield Crematorium has cut services to just 20 minutes to observe social distancing measures. (PA/Getty Images)

Any new bookings for funeral services at both Pontefract and Wakefield Crematoria will be 20 minutes in length.

Any existing bookings up to 27 April booked for a 40 minute slot will be unaffected by the change.

A Local Government Association spokesman said: “Councils are continuing to hold funerals in accordance with the latest government guidance and are making specific arrangements on a local basis to ensure that social distancing can be maintained.

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“Councils aim to ensure that immediate family are able to say goodbye to their loved ones but that staff and mourners are safe, especially at a time when there may be increasing pressures on funeral services.

“We are seeking further guidance on funeral services from central government.”

Wakefield Council’s acting chief executive Andrew Balchin said: “This has been a very difficult decision to make in very challenging circumstances.

Couple standing together by a gravestone
York City Council have banned mourners from attending cremations, while Wakefield council in Leeds have cut all services to 20 minutes or less. (Getty Images)

“We understand that these changes will be difficult for families grieving the loss of a loved-one.

“These changes have been temporarily introduced to help keep everyone who is involved, both families and staff, as safe as possible during these unprecedented times. It will also enable more services to take place.

“We appreciate people’s understanding during these difficult times.”

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