Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 30 Oct 2020
Last updated: 27 Apr 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

515.6 kB

14 page PDF

515.6 kB

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

14 page PDF

515.6 kB

Funeral services

Provision of funeral services

The Scottish Government acknowledges the large amount of work and significant effort burial and cremation authorities, working with funeral directors, have undertaken to continue to offer funeral services during this pandemic.

All burial and cremation authorities should consider continuing to implement methods for either streaming services online or to record services for bereaved families. This will assist in ensuring funeral service attendance is kept to a limited number of people.  

Funeral directors continue to play an important role in helping to establish and communicate this service provision to bereaved families.

Funeral services

Guidance on funeral services has been published on the Scottish Government website separately. This should be read in conjunction with this document. 

It remains the responsibility of burial and cremation authorities to implement policies regarding the required conduct or management of a funeral service in their burial ground or crematorium. This should be in line with current public health advice and associated mitigations.

Further appropriate infection control measures relevant to the provision of funeral services are set out below in Section 5. 

Restricting numbers of attendees

On 13 April 2021, the updated Strategic Framework: Protection Levels was published. It sets out the maximum number of people permitted at funeral services at each of the protection levels. Physical distancing requirements remain in place.

The new maximum attendance limits at each of the Protection Levels are:

  • level 3 – funeral services 50; post-funeral gatherings 50 
  • level 2 – funeral services 50;  post-funeral gatherings 50 
  • level 1 – funeral services 100;  post-funeral gatherings 100 
  • level 0 – funeral services 200;  post-funeral gatherings 200 

These limits do not include the funeral director, venue staff or celebrant but do include children of all ages and any person hired by the family. 

On 26 April 2021 Scotland moved to Level 3. Under the updated protection levels, at Level 3 funerals can be attended by a maximum of 50 people, if physical distancing permits. Cremation authorities must continue to ensure that a safe distance, of at least 2 metres, can be maintained between individuals and household groups. Burial authorities should also continue to ensure these measures and relevant mitigations are put in place. It is recognised that in some cases, venue capacity (with the required physical distancing) will mean that attendance may be less than 50 people.

Wherever possible and if available, those wishing to attend or follow a funeral service should continue considering doing so by electronic means, such as via an online streaming service or by viewing a recording of the service. 

Cremation authorities are advised to continue not to use speakers to transmit funeral services to those gathering outside the crematorium. On the balance of risk, the concern is that outside speakers could encourage people to gather around the speaker, not observing physical distancing or attract others to gather in excess of the maximum number of people advised for attendance at funerals at each level.

Mementos or actions during a service

Permission for any specific action by attendees during a funeral service will be based upon the authority’s own COVID-19 related risk assessments for actions mourners may wish to undertake during a service e.g. placing of a photograph on the coffin or touching a coffin during a service. 

Regular cleaning plays a vital role in limiting the transmission of COVID-19. If touching the coffin is permitted, it is recommended that cleaning surfaces between touches should be undertaken where practical to do so, as well as at the end of the service if possible. 

Risk assessments will take into account the authority’s own circumstances and applicable public health advice relevant to the current pandemic, including advice on physical distancing.

First published: 30 Oct 2020 Last updated: 27 Apr 2021 -