Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for burial and cremation authorities

Published: 30 Oct 2020
Last updated: 9 Jun 2021 - see all updates

This guidance is for burial and cremation authorities to help manage their services and also their funeral services during the current pandemic.

14 page PDF

519.6 kB

14 page PDF

519.6 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for burial and cremation authorities

14 page PDF

519.6 kB

Key principles

This guidance is primarily designed to assist burial and cremation authorities in Scotland in the management of continuing to provide funeral services during the pandemic and sharing of good practice for funeral services. This guidance has been developed to ensure that:

  • those who have died during the pandemic and their family are treated with sensitivity, dignity and respect
  • the different cultural practices and rites of passage observed in Scotland by a variety of communities are respected and adhered to as closely as circumstances permit, with safety being paramount
  • a safe and healthy working environment continues to be provided for managers and their staff working in the sector
  • burial and cremation authorities work as safely as possible, to ensure the timely burial or cremation of the deceased. This is required to facilitate the wider ‘flow’ of the death management sector and to assist burial and cremation authorities, funeral directors and health boards in continuing to deliver an effective and safe service during the current pandemic
  • the work of burial and cremation authorities is crucial in the management of family expectations around funeral arrangements, bereavement and the grieving process; which will be especially difficult during this current pandemic

Status of this guidance

As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, alongside our understanding of the disease and a greater evidence base, further lessons are likely to be learned with best practice developed. 

This guidance will remain under review in response to such information and be consistent with relevant legislation, NHS Inform and Public Health Scotland documentation.


In January 2020, coronavirus (COVID-19) was classified in the UK as a ‘high consequence infectious disease’ (HCID). In March 2020, when more was understood about the behaviour of the virus and its clinical outcomes, the four nations agreed that COVID-19 should no longer be classified as a HCID. As a result of this and a review of the evidence regarding what infection control measures were required, that guidance was updated to reclass it as Hazard Group HG3 [2]

The virus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes the disease (COVID-19) is understood to be spread from person to person through [1]

  • droplet transmission: droplets from the nose or mouth of a person infected with the virus. Droplets are produced when a person coughs or sneezes and only travel a short distance through the air. The risk of infection increases the longer someone has close contact with an infected person
  • aerosol transmission: spread through smaller droplets and particles that are suspended in the air over longer distances and time than droplet transmission
  • contact transmission: contact with contaminated surfaces, including skin (hands), which can then subsequently be transmitted through touch to the facial mucosal membranes (e.g. touching eyes, nose and mouth)

[1]Joint Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Public Health Wales (PHW), Public Health Agency Northern Ireland (PHANI), Health Protection Scotland (HPS) and Public Health England (PHE) guidance Transmission characteristics and principles of infection prevention and control section 1 ‘routes of transmission’

First published: 30 Oct 2020 Last updated: 9 Jun 2021 -