Funeral services and supporting the family
Supporting the family
Where close contacts of the deceased may have been exposed to COVID-19 infection, they will be required to be in self-isolation in line with current NHS guidance available on NHS Inform stay at home advice. Funeral directors should limit their interactions with these individuals and carry out any funeral arrangements preferably by telephone or by other electronic means.
Although not recommended where it may be required to meet to discuss funeral arrangements, funeral directors should ensure that there is a single point of contact with the family and that this person should not have been in close contact with the deceased who was either presumed or confirmed to have COVID-19 or they themselves are awaiting test results, displaying symptoms or are currently self-isolating.
If required or requested, information on bereavement support is available on the mygov.scot website.
Separate guidance has been published on the Scottish Government website setting out current public health measures applicable to funeral services, including the new restrictions on maximum numbers of attendees for funerals for each level set out in the strategic framework published on 23 October 2020: for level 0 (baseline) the maximum number is 50 and for levels 1 to 4 the maximum is 20. Children of all ages are counted in the maximum.
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.
Burial ground, crematorium or place of worship requirements
It is the responsibility of cremation authorities, burial authorities and places of worship to implement policies regarding the required conduct of visitors for a funeral service in their crematorium, burial ground or place of worship during this pandemic, in line with national restrictions and wider public health requirements. See our burial and cremation authority guidance and places of worship guidance for further information.
From Friday 8 January 2021, in light of the new lockdown restrictions, places of worship will be closed to the public, but will remain open for funeral services.
Funeral directors should engage and regularly communicate with their local crematoriums, burial grounds and places of worship in order to continue to help funeral services be delivered in as safe a way as possible, and to be aware of any specific local action taken so they can advise their clients accordingly.
Delay to a funeral service
Funeral services should not generally be delayed at this time. If necessary and appropriate, the funeral services guidance linked to above can be referenced, in order to assist sensitive conversations with bereaved families.
Also, funeral services which are to be arranged in an area where the current level is set at 1 – 4 or in lockdown (with a maximum of 20 people), should not be arranged to be held in another area of Scotland unless there is specific reason for doing so. For example, if the deceased is to be buried in a family lair in a burial ground in the area with the lower level of restrictions.
Funeral service transport
Wherever possible, funeral service attendees should travel to the venue in a car by themselves or with people from their household group. If this is not possible and funeral transport e.g. provision of cars or limousines is required or chosen:
- the number of people in each car should be kept as low as possible;
- there should be good ventilation (keep the windows open, where possible);
- passengers and drivers (unless the driver is separated by a screen or other mitigation) must wear face coverings;
- if possible, maintain physical distance between passengers, maximising the distance through appropriate seating positions;
- vehicles should be cleaned regularly with 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. Drivers and passengers should be asked to cover their mouth and nose with disposable tissues if they need to cough or sneeze, or with the crook of their elbow if no tissues are available; and
- they should avoid touching their faces and face coverings and dispose of used tissues in a bin immediately.
If public transport is used, clients can be reminded that that wearing a face covering is also mandatory on public transport in Scotland, barring any specific exemption set out in Scottish Government guidance.
 Face coverings are now mandatory across many transport options in Scotland. This includes private hire vehicles (e.g. limousines). Exemptions to wearing of a face covering are set out in Scottish Government guidance.
 Drawn from PHE, Guidance for care of the deceased with suspected or confirmed coronavirus, subheading ‘transport to and from a funeral’.