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Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 30 Oct 2020
Last updated: 21 Jan 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.

13 page PDF

514.4 kB

13 page PDF

514.4 kB

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

13 page PDF

514.4 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 small 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

An amendment to the Regulations came into force on 15 July 2020 removing the legislative restrictions on who can attend a funeral.  The Strategic Framework published on 23 October 2020 sets out the varying restrictions on funeral attendance numbers for the five levels.  At level 0 (baseline) funerals can be attended by up to 50 people.  For the other 4 levels funeral attendance is set at a maximum of 20.  In all levels, children of all ages are included in the maximum number.

Mainland Scotland and some islands are now at level 4 with guidance to stay local. Some islands remain at level 3.

Find out the COVID protection level for each local area .

In areas placed into lockdown, funeral services can continue with up to a maximum of 20 people. However, from Friday 8 January 2021 post-funeral gatherings, for example wakes and funeral teas, are not permitted.

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.

Due to differences in capacity across different venues as a result of physical distancing measures, fewer than the maximum number allowed may be able to attend.

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

Cremation authorities are strongly advised 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: 21 Jan 2021 -