Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for funeral services

Published: 30 Oct 2020
Last updated: 21 Jan 2021 - see all updates

This guidance explains what restrictions are currently in place for funeral services and wider public health guidance relevant for funeral services.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for funeral services
Funeral service

Funeral service

Those organising a funeral or advising others on attendance at a funeral service, should review and take into account all of the following:

  • In-person attendance at funeral services is currently limited to a maximum of 20 people in all areas of Scotland. This is not including the funeral director, venue staff or celebrant but, it does include children of all ages and any person hired by the family. Numbers of attendees will also be based on the size of the venue and its ability to maintain strict physical distancing measures, so the number able to attend may be less than the maximum number for the area;
  • we strongly discourage people who are not counted in the maximum number from going to the funeral service and gathering outside the crematorium, funeral director service room, or in the burial ground;
  • all attendees must maintain at least 2 metres distance from each other at all times (unless they are from the same household, or are a carer and the person assisted by the carer). References to a household include an extended household;
  • if available, those who cannot attend a funeral service in person should consider joining remotely from home via electronic means or viewing a recording of the service;
  • all attendees should maintain good hand and cough hygiene, both before and after attending a service e.g. such as regular hand washing, disposing of tissues etc., safely, and ideally, taking them home to dispose of;
  • if a person is showing symptoms of COVID-19 infection or has tested positive with COVID-19 they should not attend a funeral service in person, during the period they are required to self-isolate because they pose a risk to others;
  • if a person is not symptomatic or has not tested positive with COVID-19, but is self-isolating due to another member of their household either showing symptoms of COVID-19 or their household member has tested positive with COVID-19, that person should not attend a funeral service in person.  They should instead continue to follow household self-isolation advice; and
  • if a person is not symptomatic or has not tested positive with COVID-19, but is self-isolating as a result of contact with a positive case (identified through contact tracing), they should not attend a funeral service in person.  This person should instead follow all contact tracing and self-isolation advice provided to them.

Attendance of people who are in the higher risk group or extremely high risk group

If you are part of a higher risk or extremely high risk group and wish to attend a funeral service in person, you must seriously consider doing so in line with important public health advice applicable to you and available on NHS Inform.

You should always, in the first instance, consider joining via electronic means or viewing a recording of the service.

Face Coverings

Everyone attending an indoor funeral service is required by law to wear a face covering.  This includes funeral services in crematoriums, funeral directors’ premises and places of worship.

There are some exceptions to wearing a face covering during funeral services.  The person leading the funeral service, or providing the eulogy, can remove a face covering when carrying out their role in the service, but must instead remain at least 2 metres away from others or have a protective screen between them and others, and wear a face covering before and after carrying out their role in the service.

If it is not possible for the person leading the funeral service or providing the eulogy to remain at least 2 metres away from others or to use a protective screen, they must wear a face covering.

Physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene are the most important and effective measures we can all take to prevent the spread of coronavirus.  The wearing of face coverings must not be used as an alternative or substitute to any of these other critical precautions.

However, there is evidence that face coverings can add additional protection, especially in crowded and less well ventilated spaces, and where 2 metres physical distancing is not possible.  In indoor places, where physical distancing is difficult and where there is a risk of close contact with multiple people who are not members of the same household, people must wear a face covering.

We recognise that for some, wearing a face covering while grieving may be uncomfortable.  It is acceptable for someone to remove their face covering temporarily to blow their nose or wipe their eyes.  In these circumstances it is important to maintain 2 metres physically distanced from others.

More information on when a face covering must be worn and exemptions, and reasonable excuses.

Carrying the Cords and Coffin

Prior to the pandemic, family members could participate in the lowering or carrying of the coffin at the crematorium or the burial ground. They were routinely assisted and directed by funeral directors and/or their staff, or at burial grounds, burial ground staff, in doing so.

As experienced professionals, funeral directors, their staff, or the burial ground staff’s role is to guide the process. Because of the requirement to remain 2 metres apart from one another, in most cases, staff will only be able to ensure a coffin is carried correctly and safely by undertaking this without family involvement.

However, each funeral director is able to carry out a risk assessment and there may be circumstances where the family can have a role in carrying the coffin, such as carrying it as a single household, and the options should be discussed with the relatives. In most cases, the 2 metre physical distancing requirement prevents this. It is a decision for the funeral director to make on a case-by-case basis and to discuss with the cremation/ burial authority to allow it.

Singing and chanting

Attendees should not sing or chant during a funeral but recorded music can still be played.

If the person arranging the funeral would like a bagpiper, this should be checked in advance with the funeral director or the venue where the funeral is taking place. They will confirm if a bagpiper is permitted at the venue, and, if permitted, what requirements must be adhered to in order to maintain physical distancing and public health measures.

Further public health information

Those attending an indoor funeral service will be asked to provide contact details for Test and Protect purposes.  Doing so is very important to help stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

NHS Inform explains more about coronavirus (COVID-19) and how the virus can spread.

Further information

Information on what to do when someone dies, including accessing bereavement services or support, or support with funeral costs, is available here: What to do after a death in Scotland.

First published: 30 Oct 2020 Last updated: 21 Jan 2021 -