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Explains who can attend funerals, what you need to do if someone dies during the pandemic and where you can get support.

First published:
12 June 2020
Last updated:

The death of a loved one or friend can be an extremely difficult and challenging time. The restrictions, which have been put in place to control the spread of coronavirus, will make this time even more difficult for families experiencing bereavement and grief.

You may struggle with shock, not just of the initial bereavement, but with the social distancing measures and changes to funeral arrangements, which mean you may not be able to say goodbye to a loved one in the way you would have wanted. This may be particularly hard for those people who are alone, shielding or isolating, who may be finding it harder to connect with their normal support networks.

The grieving process and the related formal and informal rituals, during which we would mourn the passing of a loved one, are important for our health and wellbeing. 

This advice is designed to help everyone who is managing or organising a funeral during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. You will find information about the extra help and support available to help you to consider and plan alternative ways to remember and pay tribute to your loved ones.

What you need to do if a loved one dies

The first step is to register the death with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. This needs to be done within 5 days. Contact your local Register Officer to register a death and find other bereavement services (on GOV.UK).

Once this has been completed, the registrar can issue you with the Certificate for Burial or Cremation and the Death Certificate.

To help you during this difficult time you may wish to use the free Tell Us Once service (on GOV.UK). It enables you to report a death to most local and central government departments in one go.

To help you find a funeral director, industry-inspected local funeral directors can be found via:

Financial assistance

During the pandemic, families may need extra financial support, particularly people who are not in receipt of income-related benefits, to help meet the cost of funeral expenses.

The Department for Work and Pension’s funeral expenses payments are available for people on a low income and claiming certain benefits or tax credits who need help to pay for a funeral they are arranging. It can help pay the burial fees for a particular plot; cremation fees, including the cost of the doctor’s certificate, the death certificate, travel to arrange or go to the funeral and the costs of moving the body within the UK if it is being moved more than 50 miles. In addition, financial assistance of up to £1,000 is available for other funeral expenses, such as the funeral director’s fees, flowers and coffin. 

The UK Government also offers bereavement support payments, which are a one-off tax-free payment provided to the spouse or civil partner of someone who has died. This is a way to help with funeral costs, even for those not in receipt of benefits. The one-off payment is £2,500 or £3,500 if someone is in receipt of Child Benefit, followed by 18 monthly payments of £100 (£350 for those in receipt of Child Benefit).

Additional financial support might also be available to help from UK Government Budgeting Loans or Universal Credit Budgeting Advances.

Organising and attending funerals

The Welsh Government has put in place restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus in Wales and to protect people’s health. This includes temporary restrictions on gatherings and the movement of people in Wales. These have an impact on how funerals are organised but they do enable funerals to go ahead because we recognise it is important for people to say goodbye to a loved one.

Funeral directors have been given specific advice about how to organise funerals during the pandemic. They will be able to guide you through the process and help you make arrangements, making sure that you receive the advice and support you need.

The following information will help you to understand some of the main restrictions that are in place.

People can attend a funeral if:

  • you are the person organising the funeral
  • you are invited to the funeral, or
  • you are the carer of a person who is attending the funeral (either because they are the organiser or they have been invited)

Everyone attending a funeral, whether at a crematorium, place of worship or cemetery, should take all reasonable measures to stay 2 metres away from someone they don’t live with or care for. This will help to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Those responsible for running the crematorium, place of worship or cemetery will make arrangements to maintain this distance between people. This will mean there are limits on the maximum number of people who can physically attend a funeral. This will be clearly communicated to you before the funeral takes place. 

To help protect against the spread of coronavirus, please could funerals be by invitation only. The death of anyone close to you is a very distressing and sad event. But at this time, we ask you to only attend funerals of your closest family and friends and only if you have been invited. 

Those experiencing coronavirus symptoms should not attend, but should self-isolate and apply for a test. This includes any people officiating as well as mourners.

Those who are self-isolating for 10 days due to someone in their household being unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or as advised by NHS Test, Trace, Protect should not attend.

Those who live with someone who has tested positive, should self-isolate for 10 days, and should not attend. This includes a person who lives with others, as all other household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 10 days. The 10-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill or if they do not have symptoms, from the day their test was taken

If a person develops symptoms during their self-isolation period, they should arrange to take a test, and if that comes back positive, they should self-isolate for 10 days, from the day they received their test result. These people should not attend.

Mourners coming into Wales who have travelled to Wales from countries that are not exempt from the requirement to self-isolate (within the last 10 days) are required to self-isolate for 10 days from the day they were last in a non-exempt country. However, Regulation 10(4)(k) provides an exception from the requirement to self-isolate in limited circumstances, including on compassionate grounds. This includes attending a funeral. The mourner can only leave their place of self-isolation when attending the funeral, and is otherwise expected to self-isolate for the remainder of the 10-day period unless another exemption applies. Please note that the list of exempt countries is updated regularly and people travelling must check the self-isolation requirements for the day they arrive and act accordingly. 

All mourners should 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
  • use their own transport where possible

Mourners who are extremely vulnerable (formerly shielding) should be facilitated to attend, with processes put in place to minimise the risk of transmission. They should be advised to minimise their contact with others for their personal protection. 

Mourners who are extremely vulnerable should follow the general physical distancing advice and should maintain a distance of 2 metres away from others as a minimum.

Actions to reduce their risk of infection could include:

  • changing the layout of premises including the location of furniture and workstations
  • controlling use of entrances, passageways, stairs and lifts
  • controlling use of shared facilities such as toilets and kitchens 
  • otherwise controlling the use of, or access to, any other part of the premises
  • installing barriers or screens 
  • providing or requiring use of personal protective equipment
  • the person responsible for arranging the funeral advising other attendees that there is an extremely 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 self-isolating either because they have symptoms or as a part of the same household/extended household as someone with symptoms, or if they have been advised by Test Trace Protect to self-isolate do not attend
  • those responsible for premises where funerals are carried out must provide information to those entering or working at the premises about how to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus

Mourners who are at increased risk or extremely 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.

It is important that you do not delay the funeral of your loved one. We understand how difficult this will be for their families and friends, however the current guidance will be in place for the foreseeable future for the safety of the public and to ensure that funeral directors, crematoriums and burial grounds can continue to offer as normal a service as possible.

Other ways to remember your loved one

The restrictions on visiting and contact during the pandemic are changing how we say goodbye to those we love. We are working with faith and community leaders to ensure that personal wishes are met wherever this is possible and we will always ensure that loved ones are treated with dignity and respect.

You may wish to consider other ways to pay your respects or remember your loved ones:

  • funerals can be broadcast and livestreamed so people who cannot be physically present can attend the ceremony virtually
  • books of condolence can be opened online and other tributes paid through electronic communications or social media
  • family and friends may also want to consider holding a memorial service or celebration of life once the coronavirus pandemic is over

Where to find emotional support

There are many practical considerations to take care of when someone you love dies but it is also important to recognise that you may need help and support. The restrictions the pandemic has placed on all our daily lives has a significant impact on our usual rituals and behaviours around death and this can make the experience even more upsetting and stressful.

Bereavement and the way we respond to it is a very personal matter. We have include the contact details of a number of organisations which offer additional support, if you need it.

Cruse Bereavement Care has online resources about how bereavement and grief may be affected by this pandemic and can be contacted via telephone on 0808 808 1677.

Bereavement Advice Centre is a national organisation offering advice about all aspects of bereavement and can be contacted via telephone on 0800 634 9494.

Good Grief Trust is an online search engine providing links to bereavement support across the country.

Samaritans is a charity organisation that supports people in extreme distress and can be contacted on 116 123. 

Silverline is a befriending service for older people providing 24-hour support and can be contacted via telephone on 0800 470 8090.

Child Bereavement UK supports families when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, and when a child is facing bereavement and can also be contacted via telephone 0800 028 8840.

Winstons Wish provides support for grieving children and young people through an online chat facility or a freephone national helpline 08088 020 021.

2 wish upon a star provides bereavement support for families who have suddenly and traumatically lost a child or young adult aged 25 and under.