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What to expect at a funeral during the Pandemic in Torbay.

Updated on 2nd November 2020 after the new lockdown rules have been announced.

The new lockdown is set to start on Thursday 5th November 2020. This is what the government say about funeral rules.

Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people (this is dependent on venue size), and it is advised that only close friends and family attend. Linked ceremonial events such as stone settings and ash scatterings can also continue with up to 15 people in attendance. Anyone working is not included. Social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.

Weddings, civil partnership ceremonies will not be permitted to take place except in exceptional circumstances.

Places of Worship will be closed, unless they are being used for:

  • Funerals

  • To broadcast acts of worship

  • Individual prayer

  • Formal childcare or where part of a school

  • Essential voluntary and public services, such as blood donation or food banks

  • Other exempted activities such as some support groups

As of 2nd November 2020 the funeral service itself remains relatively unaffected by the new lockdown rules and these are outlined below. Families must follow the government rules regarding travelling, overnight stays and remaining within household groups or bubbles.
We have indicated where the new rules have changed the situation slightly. For individual information and support speak with your funeral director.

Never before has the caveat that this was written on 13th October 2020 and is relevant to the Torbay area been more important. The situation is changing as rapidly in the funeral industry as it is across the rest of the nation. Our trade bodies such as The National Association of Funeral Directors and SAIF lobby government on our behalf and call for clarity. That information is passed down to us and other industry bodies where we try to translate that into local situations.

Directives are not only given to the funeral industry from the Government but they are also set at a local level dependant on venue size. In essence, limits on funeral attendance at a National level is 30 mourners however at Torquay Crematorium the maximum is 20 due to the size of the chapel.

4th September 2020 Government guidelines for England

Who can attend

Family and friends are allowed to attend a funeral and this removed the restriction of close family and household only. New Advice: It is now advised close family and friends only to attend.

How many can attend

The maximum was raised to 30 attendees however this is set locally and is dependent on the size of the venue. For this the funeral director will advise you of the local situation. For example you can have 20 mourners as a maximum in Torquay Crematorium Chapel and currently there is no limit on external services such as burials. Interments of ashes or scattering ceremonies are limited to a maximum of 15 people. This will be subject to change as more directives are implemented.

How does the "Rule of Six" affect funerals

Funerals are exempt from the Rule of Six Law that was enacted on 14th September 2020. This includes burials, cremations and any religious service directly linked to a funeral (this is always in line with local restrictions) The Rule of Six has changed inline with the new lockdown and funerals remain unaffected by this.

What about Wakes

All venues will be closed and there will be no Wake venues available during the new lockdown from 5th November 2020

How will the funeral differ from normal?

Limousines and family cars

Funeral directors are doing all they can to ensure the safety of their families, staff and other key workers. For advice speak with your funeral director on what their particular ruling is.

This is what the Government guidance says.

Social distancing advice should be followed when travelling to and from the funeral. If it is possible for the family to use their own transport to and from the funeral this would always be advisable. Wherever possible, mourners should travel to the venue in a car by themselves or with people from their household or support bubble (if applicable). If this is not possible and funeral transport is required:

  • the number of people in each car should be kept as low as possible

  • there should be good ventilation (keep the windows open)

  • if possible, maintain social distance between passengers, maximising the distance through appropriate seating positions

  • mourners who are not from the same household or support bubble should face away from each other

  • vehicles should be cleaned regularly using gloves and standard cleaning products with particular emphasis on handles and other surfaces that passengers may touch

  • the driver and passengers should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after the journey or use hand sanitiser. They should cover their mouth and nose with disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing or with the crook of their elbow if no tissues are available

  • they should avoid touching their faces and dispose of used tissues in a bin immediately

If mourners are using shared transport with others that they do not normally meet and where social distancing is not possible, they should consider wearing a face covering. If public transport is necessary, mourners are advised that wearing a face covering is mandatory on public transport in England, unless you are exempt for health, disability or other reasons.

What we do as a funeral director when our families use one of our ceremonial vehicles.

In addition to the above:

  • Our drivers will wear a face covering

  • Our vehicles are meticulously cleaned and disinfected after every journey

  • We supply every passenger with a small bottle of hand sanitiser

  • We carry face masks for anyone who has forgotten one.

What has changed during the funeral service

This is probably where the biggest changes are seen. As mentioned these change from venue to venue so below is the current situation at Torquay Crematorium Chapel (as of 13th October 2020).

  • Maximum 20 mourners can attend (this does not include minister or funeral staff)

  • Face coverings must be worn by all mourners (unless exempt)

  • Chairs will be spaced out to allow for social distancing

  • An organist can play hymns but there is no singing of hymns allowed due to projection

What options are there to help families during these times?

Webcasting the funeral service

The webcast is run through the digital system at Torquay Crematorium. It is a live stream of the funeral so people who cannot attend the service can watch it live over the internet. When the webcast is booked the family will be sent a link with secure login details that they can send to family or friends who wish to watch. There is a fee charged by the crematorium for this service but this has been massively reduced during the pandemic.

Recording the funeral service

Similar to the webcast this can be booked individually or as well as the webcast. You can choose either a downloadable link, usb or DVD recording of the service. Due to demand this takes a few weeks after the service to receive.

Commonly asked questions

Is there a difference in funerals for people who pass away from COVID-19

The guidelines for funerals are designed to minimise the risk of transmission between mourners and to key workers (including funeral, cemetery and crematorium staff) so apply equally to all funeral services. Every funeral director and crematoria will have their own policies designed to minimise risk. At present there is no direct changes to policies if someone passed away from Covid-19.

Will the coffin still be carried

The guidelines for funerals do not include any Covid-19 related restriction on carrying the coffin. Again this is governed by your funeral director and local crematoria risk assessments.

In Conclusion

This is a rapidly changing situation

Although giving a local Torbay outline of the current situation to help families to know what to expect the details may and will change. For the up to date outline of the current situation please speak with your funeral director or visit the dedicated Covid-19 webpage from the National Association of Funeral Directors

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