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Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for funeral services

Published: 30 Oct 2020
Last updated: 9 Mar 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 will be in place for the foreseeable future as we continue to respond to the pandemic.

Viewing the deceased in family homes

We respectfully advise that the deceased are not taken to family homes for viewings, irrespective of the local protection level.  

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 further increased in an indoors setting.

All viewings should take place in the funeral director’s premises so 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. 

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.

Scotland’s Strategic Framework sets out the different levels of restrictions that apply.   Those who are organising a funeral are advised that in-person attendance at funeral services should continue to be kept to as few people as possible and are subject to physical distancing and wider public health measures.  In-person attendance at a funeral service should be limited to a maximum of 20 people where the funeral will take place in areas where level 1 – 4 restrictions are in force. The 20 person maximum includes children of all ages. 

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

Fnd out the COVID protection level for each local area and get information on what you can and cannot do at each level.

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.

These lockdown measures are being taken to help prevent and mitigate any potential spread of the virus amongst different households and the wider community.  Those arranging a funeral are requested not to arrange a funeral outwith their local area where they would not normally do so, unless there is a specific reason for doing so, such as to arrange a burial in a family lair in a burial ground.

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.

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.  In some cases that may mean less than 20 people will be able to attend. 

First published: 30 Oct 2020 Last updated: 9 Mar 2021 -