Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for funeral services

Published: 30 Oct 2020
Last updated: 21 Jul 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
Pre-funeral arrangements

Pre-funeral arrangements


To ensure organisations managing funerals are able to offer as normal a service as possible for all who are bereaved, it is important that people do not delay arranging funerals.

We understand how difficult this will be for families and friends who have lost loved ones, however, some level of restrictions continue to be necessary as we respond to the pandemic.

Viewing the deceased in family homes

This section of guidance relates to keeping the deceased at home prior to the funeral. Available options should be discussed with the funeral director.


Where possible, viewings should take place in the funeral director’s premises where they can ensure that appropriate cleaning before and after each viewing is carried out and they are able to limit the number of people viewing to a safe level.  In line with wider public health advice, viewings should be kept to the minimum number of attendees possible, and no more than the indoor gathering rules at a single time

The requirements for 1 metre physical distancing, mask wearing, ventilation and good hand hygiene still apply.

We respectfully advise that if the deceased are taken to family homes for viewings, the general rules of meeting indoors at all Protection Levels are observed. 

Families are unlikely to be equipped to follow the appropriate infection control precautions and, regardless of the cause of death, there is also an increased risk of transmission of COVID-19, where families and communities gather together to comfort one another and pay their respects following a death.  This risk is  increased in an indoors setting. 

Funeral directors or others carrying the coffin in and out of the home, who are not part of the household, should wear PPE and take all other public health precautions. 

To further minimise any risk of infection, the coffin should remain closed if either of the hazard boxes (1) or (3) are ticked on the Certificate of Registration of Death (form 14): risk to public health from an infectious disease or from radioactive material or hazardous implant).

Who can attend a funeral service

Funeral services throughout this pandemic will continue to look and feel different to how services have been conducted before public health measures came into force.

Those who are organising a funeral are advised that in-person attendance at funeral services remains subject to physical distancing and wider public health measures.  

On 13 April 2021 the updated Coronavirus (COVID-19) protection levels document was published. It sets out the maximum number of people permitted at funeral services and post-funeral gatherings at each of the protection levels.  The maximum attendance limits at each of the Protection Levels are:

  • Level 4 – funeral services 20; no post-funeral gatherings
  • 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

Children of all ages are counted in the maximum number.

All those present at a funeral service for the purpose of work are not included in the maximum number. This includes, for example, anyone hired by the family, any venue staff, or third party suppliers (including carers or those who must accompany an individual such as a prison escort).

However, if anyone working subsequently joins the funeral party as one of the mourners, they should then count towards the total number. For example, if a bagpiper plays outside the funeral venue at the beginning of a service, then joins the mourners inside the funeral venue as one of the mourners, they should count towards the total number.

Please note that physical distancing requirements remain in place and it is strongly recommended that you check with the venue in advance how many people can be accommodated while still observing physical distancing guidance. In some cases it will be less than the maximum limit set out by the Scottish Government. 

If the maximum number of people cannot be accommodated in a venue, those wishing to attend or follow a funeral service may wish do so by electronic means, such as via an online streaming service or by viewing a recording of the service from home, if this is available. Another way to show your respects is to be present at the route of the funeral cortege. It is still important to observe physical distancing requirements and keep 1 metre apart from others who are not in your household or social group of up to 15 people.

Decisions about funeral restrictions have been taken to help prevent and mitigate potential spread of the virus amongst different households and the wider community. 

Local policies

In line with wider restrictions and public health measures required to help mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19 crematoriums, burial grounds and places of worship will have in place local policies to manage funeral services.

This will include measures to ensure physical distancing is maintained between household groups.  Attendance will be within the capacity limits of the venue so that physical distancing can be strictly adhered to.   

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