Attendance restrictions on funerals could have “serious unintended consequences” for the families of the deceased, the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) has warned.
It said services should be allowed to continue within the social distancing guidelines, and criticised some local authorities for going too far with their restrictions.
City of York Council initially banned all mourners from York Crematorium – but is now allowing loved ones to gather outside.
An association spokesman said: “Unlike any other life event, witnessing a funeral can’t be deferred and there is no opportunity to repeat it again in the future.”
Witnessing the funeral of a loved one plays an important role in helping bereaved families move through the grieving process and not being able to attend can have an impact on long-term health and wellbeing.
We are concerned at the actions of local authorities that are banning all family members from attending.
This goes way beyond government guidance and isn’t in the interests of bereaved families.
Outcry in York
York Council’s total ban on mourners at its crematorium caused an outcry.
The council changed its policy to say immediate family could attend outside the building after the measures were branded “a step too far” by York Central MP Rachael Maskell.
Other councils across the UK have placed varying restrictions on services amid the coronavirus lockdown.
Belfast and Bradford have also stopped bereaved loved ones from attending funerals.
Gloucester City Council has said only five immediate family members can attend, whereas authorities in Leeds have allowed up to 20 people at burial and graveside services.
Public Health England previously said such services could continue to go ahead but relatives should be wary of the “small but real risk” of the virus transmission from the body of the deceased.
The NAFD said while a ban on funerals may seem like a “straightforward solution” to curb the spread of the disease, it is important to give families a chance to say goodbye.
“It is not for us to deny families that opportunity if there is no reason to do so within the Government’s guidelines,” the spokesman added said.
“The important thing is to get the balance right to ensure those who have lost a loved one can say goodbye and all those attending, including the mourners, the funeral directors and crematorium or cemetery workers, are not put at greater risk of infection.”