Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for funeral directors

Published: 25 Nov 2020
Last updated: 21 Jul 2021 - see all updates

This guidance is for funeral directors to help manage their services during the current pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for funeral directors

Changes from 19 July 2021

On 19 July 2021, Scotland moved into level 0. That means that up to 200 people will be able to attend a funeral service, with physical distancing. 

Up to 200 people will also be able to attend a post-funeral gathering in a regulated venue. A post-funeral gathering held at a private dwellings must follow the general rules on indoor and outdoor gatherings.

Physical distancing rules have also changed. Please see the protection level 0 guidance for more information. 

Key principles

This guidance is primarily designed to assist funeral directors in Scotland in the management of the deceased and the organisation of funeral services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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 differing cultural practices and rites of passage observed in Scotland by a variety of communities/ faiths 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 staff working in a funeral director business.
  • funeral directors work as safely as possible, bearing in mind the challenges of transporting and caring for the deceased.
  • funeral directors are supported in the management of family expectations around funeral arrangements, bereavement and the grieving process; which will be especially difficult during this pandemic.

This guidance is also designed for those in the hospitality sector, who may be involved in hosting post-funeral gatherings, during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to set out the necessary factors that should be considered and upheld, when hosting a post-funeral gathering.

Status of this guidance

As the current 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.[1]  As a result of this and a review of the evidence regarding what infection control measures were required, that guidance was updated to reclassify 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:[3]

  • 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.
  • contact transmission: contact with contaminated surfaces, including skin (e.g. hands), which can then subsequently be transmitted through touch to the facial mucosal membranes (e.g. touching eyes, nose and mouth).
  • aerosol transmission: spread through smaller droplets and particles that are suspended in the air over longer distances and time than droplet transmission.

[3] 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: 25 Nov 2020 Last updated: 21 Jul 2021 -