Deaths, funerals, cremations and cemeteries

Death Registration and Funeral Protocol (COVID-19)

The changes below to standard procedure have come from “Guidance for care of the deceased with suspected or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19)” published by Public Health England and by directives from the General Register Office.

This guidance was updated on 16/07/20.  As further official information about Covid-19 is confirmed this guidance may be changed accordingly.

Contacting the Funeral Director:

  • You will need to contact the Funeral Director as soon as possible about the death and burial/cremation plans so they can start preparations and timetable you into their schedule.
  • Bereaved family members will want to go through the grieving process with dignity and respect for the deceased, and all services in place will support you to enable this to happen. We urge you during these difficult times to make arrangements with your Funeral Director for the funeral to take place as soon as is possible. Your Funeral Director will advise you on how to proceed with this, with the upmost of care.
  • If your faith requires a quick burial, i.e. Muslim, Jewish and Gypsy/Roma you will need to ask for a Short Notice Burial.

Contacting Your Local Place of Worship:

  • Your local place of worship may be used for the funeral service for a maximum of 30 mourners only. You will need to contact your local place of worship to ascertain whether they are currently conducting funeral services.
  • You may also wish to contact your local place of worship by telephone so that arrangements can be made for a priest to attend the funeral at the cemetery or crematorium.

Contacting the Register Office:

  • Within working hours (Monday to Friday 9 a.m. until 5.30 p.m.). please contact the Register Office on 01709 823542 (option 2).
  • The on-call Registrar for the out of hour’s burial service can be contacted on 07748142634 or 07717456795 Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Changes to the Death Registration Process:

  • The Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD), which would previously have been given to you in a sealed envelope, will now be scanned and sent electronically from either the GP, Bereavement Centre or Coroner’s Office directly to the Register Office. This will include contact details for the next of kin.
  • The Registrar’s Office will then contact the next of kin to arrange a telephone only appointment to register the death. You will be asked how many death certificates you will require, certificates cost £11.00 each and you may need a number of these to deal with the deceased’s estate. You will be asked to order and pay for any certificates required at the time of booking the appointment and the certificates will be posted to you following completion of the registration.
  • Please note where there is no Coroner involvement, the General Register Office requires a death to be registered within 5 days.
  • All death registrations will now take place over the phone. You will not be required to attend the Register Office in person as this is now closed to the public.
  • After the death registration appointment has been completed the Registrar will send the Green Form 9 electronically to the Crematorium, Funeral Director and notify the hospital mortuary as appropriate. This will allow the body to be released.

Performing of Ritual Body Washing:

Cemetery and Crematorium Protocols and Procedures

Please follow these protocols and procedures to ensure a consistent approach is used throughout. This will ensure all requirements are met sympathetically and protect religious rights, beliefs and most importantly keep everyone safe.

Family Representative:

  • 1 immediate family member must be chosen as a point of contact between the council and the Funeral Director throughout the process.
  • If immediate family members are in self-isolation, then someone from their extended family can be chosen as their representative.

How many people can attend the Cemetery/Crematorium?

  • Up to 30 maximum attendees including household members, close family members or friends. To be discussed with the Funeral Director. This is subject to change.
  • Government guidelines state: Social Distancing of at least 2 metres (3 steps) to be observed at all times, including when travelling to and from the funeral

Who can attend the Cemetery/Crematorium?

  • 1 priest to lead the religious rites (appointed by the family).
  • Funeral Director.
  • Up to 30 maximum attendees including household members, close family members or friends.
  • Attendance of a celebrant of choice, should the bereaved request this.
  • The cemetery/crematorium requests that attendees do not arrive at different times and follow on behind the hearse observing the social distancing rule.

Mourners who are symptomatic:

Anyone who is showing symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) (a new continuous cough or a high temperature) should not attend the funeral due to the risk that they pose to others; remote participation should be considered, for example live streaming from the crematorium.

Mourners who are self-isolating due to a possible case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in their household:

Key mourners of the deceased person may include those who are self-isolating due to another member of the household being unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). Where the funeral is scheduled before the period of household isolation has been completed (14 days from the first person in that household showing symptoms) mourners who are self-isolating should be facilitated to attend.

Mourners who are from a household that is self-isolating should:

  • Not attend if they have any symptoms of any kind, even if these are very mild.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 2 metres between themselves and others.
  • Advise the other mourners that they are otherwise self-isolating at home, and ensure that they do not attend at the same time as another mourner who may be extremely clinically vulnerable.
  • Practise careful hand and respiratory hygiene.
  • Wash their hands more often - with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitiser.
  • Avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Covering their cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in a bin.
  • Mourners who are from a household that is self-isolating are advised to use their own transport where possible.

Mourners who are extremely clinically vulnerable:

Mourners who are in an extremely clinically vulnerable group should be facilitated to attend, should they wish to do so.

People who are clinically extremely vulnerable should have received a letter telling them they are in this group or been told by their GP. Mourners who are in an extremely clinically vulnerable group have been advised that they should minimise their contact with others for their personal protection. However, they may decide to attend a funeral despite the additional risk this poses to them and should be facilitated to do so.

They are not advised to attend a funeral if there are others attending who are self-isolating due to another member of the household being unwell with symptoms of coronavirus, as they could be incubating disease. Mourners who are extremely clinically vulnerable should follow the general social distancing advice for the clinically vulnerable mourners and should maintain a distance of 2 metres away from others as a minimum.

Actions to reduce their risk of infection could include:

  • Advising other attendees that there is an extremely clinically vulnerable person attending and reiterating the need to stay at home if they are unwell, and to be respectful of the vulnerable person’s need to avoid close contact at any point.
  • Advising the mourner to travel to the venue via the safest route possible, preferably in a car by themselves, or with someone from their household.
  • Considering the additional risk involved if attending the funeral requires travelling by public transport.
  • Ensuring that mourners who are in a clinically vulnerable group do not attend the same ceremony as mourners who are in household isolation.
  • Mourners who are clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable should adhere to rigorous hand and respiratory hygiene at all times but particularly whilst out of the home environment. Hand sanitiser or sanitising wipes should be used regularly whilst outside of the home.

Funeral Prayers/Service at the Crematorium:

  • Funeral prayers/service must only take place at the crematorium.
  • The priest should lead the prayers/service while the mourners should seat themselves in the crematorium observing the social distancing rule. Seating has been adjusted to help with this.
  • The deceased should be cremated in a coffin complete with nameplate.
  • After the prayers/service have been completed the mourners should leave the crematorium observing the social distancing rule.

Funeral Prayers/Service at the Cemetery:

  • Funeral prayers/service must only take place in the cemetery at the grave side.
  • After the prayers/service have been completed, the deceased should be buried immediately.
  • Only those lowering the body should be at the side of the grave, everyone else should maintain adequate distance observing the social distancing rule.
  • The deceased should be buried in a coffin complete with nameplate.
  • After the prayers/service have been completed the mourners should leave the crematorium observing the social distancing rule.

Health and Safety:

  • Mourners should not take part in rituals or practices that bring them into close contact with the body. Contact with the body should be restricted to those who are wearing PPE and have been trained in the appropriate use of PPE.