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Introduction

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 impose restrictions on individuals and businesses. This has been done to control the spread of coronavirus in Wales and to help protect the public from the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Death of a family member or friend is a very distressing event which is why the Regulations recognise the need to attend funerals in certain circumstances.   Funeral services should continue, and funeral providers should consider how they can facilitate this.

Funerals with physical attendance of mourners should continue as long as those attending adhere to the Regulations.  Those responsible for regulated premises and for work carried out, including in those premises are under duties to take reasonable measures for the purpose of minimising the risk of exposure to, and spread of, coronavirus.  This guidance is intended to assist people in ensure they meet those requirements and act in a manner which helps ensure their safety, by setting out how the risk of transmission can be reduced.

Those invited to attend a funeral may have Covid-19 (this is because the law allows people to leave their home if they are self-isolating to attend a funeral of a family member or close friend on compassionate grounds) or are at increased risk should they contract the virus and/or extremely vulnerable. It is a legal requirement for those responsible for premises to put in place reasonable measures to ensure that people on the premises maintain physical distancing and anyone on the premises should be aware of the risks of attending a funeral should someone with Covid-19 be present, and of the importance of keeping their distance and taking any addition safeguarding methods put in place by the venue.  

However, although members of the public may attend a funeral, they should be respectful of the fact that there are restrictions that have been imposed as a result of a public health emergency. The overarching advice, therefore, is that people should only attend the funeral of their family members and close friends if they need to for compassionate reasons, and can only do so if they have been invited by the person responsible for arranging the funeral.  

It is advised that the Welsh Government web page on the current Alert Level is checked regularly for the latest advice on restrictions in place.

To ensure that organisations managing funerals are able to cope with an increased number of deaths it is important that funerals are not delayed.

Legal requirements

The Regulations make provisions that apply both to those responsible for a crematorium, place of worship or cemetery at which a funeral or burial is held, to those working at such premises, including funeral directors.

Places of worship, cemeteries and crematoria, funeral directors, and hospitality businesses which may be used to hold ‘wakes’ all fall within the definition of regulated premises, which are permitted to be open depending on the Alert Level, and associate restrictions in application at the time. At this time, wakes are permitted in regulated premises for up to 50 people outdoors and 30 indoors from 17 May.

The Regulations require those responsible for those premises to take reasonable for the purpose of minimising the risk of exposure to, and spread of, coronavirus. 

Part 2 of the Regulations impose restrictions on people gathering and travelling, as well as requiring specific businesses and premises required to close.  The specific restrictions, requirements and business closures are set out in separate Schedules for each Alert Level.  Schedules also set out the restrictions and requirements which apply if an Alert Level is subject to temporary modifications.  These temporary modifications reflect the fact that it may not always be possible to move straight from one Alert Level fully to another, but rather progress from one to another through a series of easements or increases in restrictions and requirements. The Regulations applicable at any time can be found on GOV.WALES.

The guidance related to each Alert Level and any intermediate restrictions can be seen on GOV.WALES.

The restrictions within the four Alert Levels are subject to having a reasonable excuse for gathering. Under Alert Levels 1 to 3, attending a funeral and/or a gathering to celebrate the life of a deceased person are both examples of such reasonable excuses.

In order to attend a funeral as a mourner you/a person must either be arranging it, been invited to it, or be the carer of someone lawfully attending it. 

The number of people who may attend a funeral is determined by how many people the venue can safely accommodate whilst complying with the physical distancing requirements, following a risk assessment by the person responsible for the venue.  Venue owners/managers should plan for allowing 2 metres distance between people in all directions in order to calculate maximum capacity, with allowance for members of the same household to sit together.            

For celebrations of a deceased person’s life (a wake), the maximum number of people who may attend is dependent upon the Alert Level, as noted below, and the celebration must be held in regulated premises, not in private dwellings, when the Alert Level permits.   As of the 17 May people are permitted to gather in regulated premises for up to 50 people outdoors and 30 indoors.

This guidance offers advice on the practical implementation of these legal requirements for all Alert Levels. A simplified version aimed at members of the public can be found in the Annex.

Taking all reasonable measures to minimise risk of exposure to coronavirus at funerals

A key aspect of the Welsh Government’s response to the public health emergency is to place restrictions on people gathering. Attending a funeral or an associated social gathering, is an exception to the restrictions on gatherings in public places.

The number of people able to attend a funeral is limited by the capacity of the venue whilst ensuring the physical distancing requirements are applied. Unfortunately this necessitates changes to traditional customs and practices at funerals in so far as this involves interaction between people from different households.

A person responsible for a venue where a funeral is to be held, will be subject to a duty to:

  • take all reasonable measures to ensure 2 metres distance is kept between persons waiting to enter and when inside premises (other than members of the same household or a carer of a person within that household and that person);
  • take other reasonable measures to minimise risk of exposure to coronavirus, for example by preventing close face to face interaction, providing for  good hand washing and respiratory hygiene, 
  • control use of entrances, shared facilities, access to any other part of the premises, installing barriers or screens, and/or adjusting the layout of the premises; and
  • provide information to people who enter or are working in the premises on how to minimise that risk, including the use of face coverings, physical distancing controls in place etc.

In most circumstances people are expected to practice physical distancing measures. This means maintaining a distance of 2 metres wherever practical. This does not include between members of the same household, or a carer and the person assisted by the carer. Separate guidance makes it clear that it is not expected that children under 11 maintain physical distancing.  However, as young children can still transmit the virus, parents/carers of young children should still exercise their good judgement and take care especially to encourage their children to follow hand hygiene measures and keep close contact to a minimum wherever possible.

Responsibility of the venue to take reasonable measures

In order to safeguard all those in attendance, Funeral Directors and those responsible for venues should assume that there may be clinically vulnerable people, and people with Covid-19 present at all Funeral Services.

Welsh Government workplace guidance for employers and employees provides advice on taking reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus in workplaces and premises open to the public, which includes:

  • keeping records of staff, attendees and visitors for test, trace, protect purposes;
  • the requirement to wear face coverings in indoor public places;
  • reasonable measures to maintain a 2 metre distancing on premises or while anyone is working;
  • reducing close face to face interaction; and 
  • enhancing hand and respiratory hygiene.

Where close interaction between people is unavoidable or inevitable, and physical distancing cannot be maintained, other methods of separation must be employed (for example by using screens).

In addition, other reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus should be provided, such as controlling the entry to the venue, and displaying signs or other visual aids like floor markings.

Efforts should be made to ascertain if those invited to attend a funeral are likely to have Covid-19 on compassionate grounds, or if there are those who are at increased risk and/or extremely vulnerable. 

Guidance for faith and belief practices that involve close contact with the deceased

Those handling the deceased should be aware that there is likely to be a continuing risk of infection from body fluids and tissues in cases where coronavirus infection has been identified or is suspected.

Personal care of deceased people

Given the increased risk of severe illness for extremely vulnerable people from COVID-19, it is strongly advised that they have no contact at all with the deceased and do not participate in any activities such as washing, preparing or dressing the deceased.

Mourners are advised not to take part in rituals or practices that bring them into close contact with the deceased. Where there are aspects of faith which include close contact that contact should be restricted to those who are wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) under the supervision of someone who is trained in appropriate use of PPE. Detailed guidance on care of the deceased is available and should be followed, regardless of the setting in which personal care of the deceased is provided.

Given the very significant risk for people at increased risk and extremely vulnerable people who come into contact with coronavirus, it is strongly advised that they have no contact with the body of the deceased. This includes washing, preparing or dressing the body.

The maximum number who can attend a funeral

The most obvious means of taking all reasonable measures to maintain a 2 metre distance between persons present at a funeral (be that a cremation or burial), is to limit the number who may attend. This number will depend on whether the funeral involves a burial in a cemetery (including the interment of ashes), a cremation in a crematorium or a service in a place of worship.

The appropriate limit for crematoriums or places of worship will depend on the size and layout of the building. The legal requirement is that all reasonable measures are taken to ensure a distance of 2 metres is kept between those attending. This means a distance of 2 metres between members of different households, rather than between each individual person in the same household. In practice, however, it will generally not be practicable to assess in advance how many people from the same households will be sitting together at any particular funeral.

A figure should be calculated for each crematorium or place of worship, based on the number that could reasonably be accommodated if every person sat 2 metres apart. This should, however, only be a guide and a degree of flexibility can be exercised on the assumption that a significant proportion of those attending will be sitting together with members of their household.

Different considerations apply to practising physical distancing in a cemetery, or burial ground or garden of remembrance in a crematorium, as the most important aspect will be limiting the extent to which members of different households congregate, most obviously around the grave.

Grounds surrounding a crematorium are also not required to close, this includes any burial grounds or gardens of remembrance which should remain open to visitors.

Requirement for those attending to be invited

The Regulations at each Alert Level provide that attendance at a funeral as a mourner is limited to those responsible for arranging the funeral, those specifically invited by the organiser of the funeral, and the carer of anyone attending. Those who are officiating/working at the venue are not included in the number of attendees.

When organising a funeral, the person responsible must expressly invite those they wish to attend, and whilst this does not require any formality such as sending an invitation in writing, maintaining a list of those invited for NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect purposes is strongly advised.

Notwithstanding that people without invitations are not permitted to attend funerals, uninvited mourners affect the ability to social distance effectively as they reduce the capacity of a room, and thereby not only present a risk to the family and friends of the deceased person whose funeral it is but also increases the level of risk, and anxiety, for those officiating the service, and the wider public. Also uninvited mourners may unknowingly be Covid-19 positive, and may not be contactable via Test, Trace, Protect. 

In view of the risk of people attending funerals uninvited, those organising should limit information concerning the time and location of the funeral and to clearly state that attendance at the funeral is by invitation only

Outdoor funerals are subject to the same restrictions, with the number of attendees is based on the risk assessment of the owner of the venue, and the ability of mourners to socially distance in a safe manner.

Requirement for those attending to wear face coverings

Those attending a funeral are required to wear face coverings throughout the duration of the ceremony with the exemption of individuals with a reasonable excuse, such as:

  • they are not able to put on or wear a face covering because of a physical or mental illness, or because of a disability or impairment; or
  • they are accompanying or otherwise assisting somebody who relies on lip reading where they need to communicate. 

Travelling to and from a funeral

Those attending from the same household should travel together and should not travel with others from different households. Where a vehicle is used to provide a service of carriage for passengers, all reasonable measures must be taken to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus. Read guidance for the public on travelling safely

You should travel to the venue in a car by yourself or with people from your household, especially if you are at increased risk or extremely vulnerable. If this is not possible, you are advised to:

  • share your transport with the same people each time
  • open windows for ventilation
  • travel side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow
  • face away from each other
  • consider seating arrangements to maximise distance between people in the vehicle
  • ensure the car is cleaned between journeys using standard cleaning products, particularly door handles and other areas that people may touch
  • wear a face covering. You are required by law to wear a face covering on public transport, in taxis and private hire vehicles unless you are exempt for health, disability or other reasons. Passengers who are not exempt are legally required to wear a face covering when travelling in a funeral director’s vehicle or hearse. A face covering is also strongly recommended for drivers.

People resident in other UK nations

The Regulations provide that you have a reasonable excuse to attend a funeral in Wales if you are the person responsible for arranging it, if you have been invited to attend by the person arranging it or if you are the carer of a person attending.  People in these categories travelling into Wales must abide by any restrictions applying in Wales at the time of the funeral.  People travelling out of Wales to any of the other UK countries to attend a funeral must abide by any restrictions in place in those countries.  Funeral directors will be able to advise on what rules will apply to mourners who live outside the area of the funeral.

International travel restrictions affecting mourners

Mourners returning to Wales from abroad, who have travelled 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) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (Wales) Regulations 2020 provides an exception from the requirement to self-isolate, in limited circumstances, in order to attend the funeral of a family member or close friend.

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.

Restrictions and Regulations for mourners seeking to attend a funeral

People who are symptomatic should not attend

Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 (a new continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell), or lives with someone who has symptoms should avoid attending a funeral wherever possible.  The law makes specific allowances for those who are required to self-isolate enabling them to attend funerals of family members or close friends for compassionate reasons.

You should immediately self-isolate, follow the latest guidance, and request a test online, or by contacting NHS 119 via telephone if you do not have internet access.

People who are required to self-isolate

If you have been instructed by Wales NHS Test, Trace, Protect to self-isolate because you have tested positive for COVID-19, or you are the close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should generally not attend a funeral (although please see below in relation to funerals of family members or close friends where attendance is for compassionate reasons).

It is a legal offence for a person who is required to self-isolate to attend a funeral unless it is to attend the funeral of a family member or close friend.

If you are legally required to self-isolate you may only leave self-isolation if attending the funeral of a family member or close friend for compassionate reasons and otherwise must continue to self-isolate. People with a legal duty to self-isolate are:

anyone who is notified by Test, Trace, Protect that they have tested positive for COVID-19. They must self-isolate (stay at home) for the period ending 10 days after they first developed symptoms, or if they did not have symptoms, 10 days after the date of the test

anyone who is notified by Test, Trace, Protect that another member of their household or support bubble has tested positive. They must stay at home for the period ending 10 days after that household or support bubble member’s symptoms began, or if they did not have symptoms, 10 days after the date of the test

anyone who is instructed by Test, Trace, Protect to self-isolate because of close recent contact with a person outside their household or support bubble who has tested positive for COVID-19. They must stay at home for the period instructed by NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect (which will end 10 days after the point of most recent contact with the person who has tested positive).

If you have COVID-19 and you are a family member or close friend of the deceased, we strongly recommend that you attend remotely if possible, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading to other mourners. However, if after careful consideration of the considerable risks you present to others, you choose to attend in person, it is strongly advised that you discuss this with the person arranging the funeral, and take the following precautions:

  • sit apart from others, and maintain a social distance of at least 2 metres between yourself and others at all times. Other mourners need to be aware of this prior to attending,
  • practise strict hand and respiratory hygiene by:
  • wearing a properly fitted face mask, to minimise any risk of viral transmission from yourself to other;
  • washing your hands more often than usual with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using a hand sanitiser;
  • avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and
  • covering your coughs or sneezes.

Those responsible for places of worship, crematoriums and funeral directors’ premises must take all reasonable measures for the purposes of minimising the risk of exposure to coronavirus at those premises, or the spread of coronavirus by those who have been at those premises.

If the operator of the place of worship or a crematorium becomes aware that someone who is required to quarantine or self-isolate or someone who is symptomatic or has tested Covid-positive plans to attend a funeral, the operator may insist on that person wearing an appropriate standard of protective equipment and taking other appropriate precautions to minimise the risks to others attending. If that person declines or is unable to comply with those conditions, the operator may refuse to admit them.

Any mourner who comes into close contact with you during the ceremony (for example, to console or otherwise support you) will then be required to self-isolate. Other mourners need to be aware of this prior to attending.

Guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus infection is available.

It is likely that a funeral will have amongst its attendees someone who is at increased risk or clinically extremely vulnerable and someone who is leaving self-isolation. The organisers and the venue should assume that this is a high probability and make advance plans to manage the increased risk. 

Safety precautions for mourners

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;
  • avoid touching surfaces as far as possible;
  • covering their face when coughing or sneezing with a tissue, disposing of
  • the tissue safely, then washing/sanitising their hands, and replacing their face covering immediately if removed to use tissues; and
  • use their own transport and not share cars with people outside their own household where possible.

Mourners who are clinically 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, especially if someone permitted to leave self-isolation is also attending.

If a person is attending who would otherwise be self-isolating, it is advised that they inform the organiser and the funeral director/venue manager so that every measure can be taken to ensure those who are at increased risk or who are extremely vulnerable are kept as far removed as possible from the person that would ordinarily be self-isolating.

Mourners who are clinically 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 the risk of infection for all attendees by the person arranging the funeral should include:

  • advising mourners who are self-isolating to carefully consider their wish to   attend in person given the risk to other mourners;
  • advising attendees to consider the safety of other mourners who may be  at risk or  vulnerable person, and reiterate the need to avoid close contact at any point;
  • advising the mourners to travel to the venue via a method that brings them into the least contact with others as 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; and
  • take necessary steps to avoid  encouraging those who are not invited to the funeral to congregate outside the funeral venue.

Actions to reduce the risk of infection for all attendees by those responsible for premises where funerals are conducted must include:

  • provision of information to those entering or working at the premises about how to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus, including signage, advance communication of controls in place; and

Taking other actions on the premises that could include:

  • providing hand sanitiser stations at the entrance point;
  • 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 face coverings;
  • ventilation of the venue (see appendix 1 for further details); and  
  • taking additional preventative measures if a COVID positive or symptomatic person is attending the funeral.

All mourners should assume that there may be someone in attendance who is at increased risk or clinically extremely vulnerable, and therefore everyone should adhere to rigorous hand and respiratory hygiene at all times. In addition, for those who are at increased risk or clinically vulnerable they should take particular care whilst out of the home environment. Hand sanitiser or sanitising wipes should be used regularly whilst outside of the home

During the funeral

Arrangements should be put in place to ensure that upon arrival at a crematorium, place of worship or cemetery, those attending can be kept apart and are not required to congregate in confined spaces. This is particularly important while waiting to go into a crematorium or place of worship.

Those attending should then be shown to their seats in accordance with arrangements put in place in advance that ensure that all can maintain a 2 metre distance. Particular care should be taken to ensure the safety of those who are at risk or clinically extremely vulnerable, especially if someone is leaving self-isolation to attend is also present.

Those attending should be advised not to touch, kiss or come into contact with the coffin. This includes bearers who may accompany the coffin at appropriate distances but should avoid carrying the coffin on their shoulders. Where possible the coffin should be moved using wheeled biers and lifted as required by the funeral director.

Processes should be put in place to allow a suitable time to clean and disinfect the area in which a service has taken place both before and after each service, paying attention to frequently touched objects and surfaces, using regular cleaning products. They should also ensure that handwashing facilities are available and clearly signposted. Hymn books should be removed making use of bespoke order of service pamphlets for all purposes instead.

Steps should be taken to arrange online collections  rather than at the crematorium or place of worship.

It is important also to limit the extent that people from different households congregate after a funeral. That may be outside a crematorium or place of worship, or at a graveside. Arrangements should be put in place to ensure that those attending can pay tribute to the deceased with dignity, and to greet family and friends as appropriate, while ensuring physical distance is maintained.

Singing, chanting and the use of musical instruments

We recognise the importance of music, singing and chanting in worship, religious and belief ceremonies. However, there are significant risks associated with playing wind instruments and with singing or chanting. The risks are associated with the increased spread of droplets or aerosol which rise alongside volume. For this reason activities such as congregational singing, chanting, or shouting should be specifically avoided indoors..

It is possible for an organised group or groups of musicians or singers to play a part in the funeral service, but a specific risk assessment and mitigating actions should be put in place to provide safer environment, to reduce the risks of transmission of coronavirus. Therefore, anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 (a new continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell), or has been instructed by Wales NHS Test, Trace, Protect to self-isolate because they have tested positive for COVID-19, or they are the close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or lives with someone who has symptoms, or has tested positive should not attend the funeral unless for compassionate reasons. Singing or playing in groups should be limited in line with the capacity of the space given appropriate physical distancing requirements.

Wind instruments should not be played indoors. The decision whether to play an organ that requires air to be pushed through the mechanism should be based on a risk assessment and adherence with physical distancing, hand hygiene and cleaning guidance.

It is advised that you use alternative instruments such as a piano, electronic instruments or recordings.

If singing or the playing of music is to happen it should be accompanied by clear messages that those not in an organised group of musicians or singers should not join in.

Specific risk assessments for organised groups who are singing or playing musical instruments should consider;

  • Physical distancing between individuals
  • Physical distancing between fixed groups
  • Physical distancing between performers and congregations
  • The size and layout of the space
  • The ventilation available to prevent the accumulation of aerosol.
  • The use of screens or other barriers between individuals and fixed groups
  • The positioning of singers and instrumentalists to favour back to back or side to side and reduce face to face performance.
  • Performing outdoors 

Reference should be made to the guidance on performing arts, which deals with safe performance for singers, musicians and other performers.

Congregational singing should not occur indoors. If appropriate worshippers can read hymns, songs, prayers or other texts in a lowered voice.  Spoken responses should also be made quietly. 

Singing and playing music outdoors is permissible for an outdoor service, although as an organised activity it is subject to a risk assessment and the organiser must take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus. Such gatherings should maintain physical distancing between households and volumes kept low wherever possible.

Ringing of bells, or similar, may take place. However, people attending to peal bells should be included in the risk assessment process and subsequent protocols for attendance at the event. Specific provisions should be made where circumstances allow, such as separate entrances, and physical distancing measures between bell ringers and hand hygiene while pealing the bells and between them and the other attendees.

Broadcasting, online condolence and memorial at a later date

The restrictions imposed on funerals may be upsetting to those close to the deceased at a very distressing time. Attending funerals, often in great numbers, is an important part of Welsh culture. Those closest to the deceased take consolation from friends and family attending the funeral of their loved one. This will not be possible during the public health emergency, but solace may be achieved in other ways.

It is possible for funerals to be broadcast online (if broadcasting requires a technician or someone to manage the filming that the number should be the absolute minimum and considered in the calculation of how many can attend), and those who wish to do this should be helped to do so. Similarly those organising a funeral should be encouraged to open books of condolence and collections online, or to facilitate tributes to be paid by electronic communications or on social media. Alternatively, or in addition, there could also be a memorial service or celebration of life for the deceased after the public health emergency has come to an end.

Celebrating the life of the deceased or ‘wakes’

In order to reduce the risk to the public, celebrating the life of a deceased person, a wake or reception is dependent upon public health conditions as Wales seeks to transition through the Alert Levels.

Outdoor wakes are permitted for up to 50 people (not including children aged under 11 or carers) from 17 May 2021 in regulated premises.

Indoor wakes are permitted for up to 30 people (not including children aged under 11 or carers) as of the 17 May 2021.

Under all Alert Levels, you cannot attend a celebration of a deceased person’s life, wake, or reception if you have been advised to self-isolate by Wales NHS Test, Trace, Protect, or you have symptoms of coronavirus.

The celebration of the life of the deceased, wake, or wake must be held in regulated premises and must be directly associated with a funeral which took place on or after 26th March 2020, the date on which the first lockdown began. Whether these gatherings are permitted depends  upon the Alert Level and associated restrictions, and must take place in compliance with the duties on organisers specified in the Regulations

Guidance has been prepared, in partnership with the hospitality industry, relating to many of the activities which may form part of such an event, when permitted. 

Organisers of such events, when permitted, should be particularly aware of the temptation for mourners to mingle, in a way that breaks social distancing, given the circumstances. Therefore, it is essential that protocols are put in place to help attendees remain safe. These protocols will depend on the nature of the venue  itself but should include:

No buffet service, food and beverage provision should be table service only. 

Background music at a low-level volume can be played during the ceremony itself, however communal singing, chanting or dancing should not be carried out; and

Speeches can be allowed, but there should be no sharing of microphones. Volume levels to be kept to a reasonable level so guests do not have to raise their voices.

Whilst loud music, be it recorded or played live, should be avoided, it would be possible to have unamplified live music performed by a socially distanced group (such as a string quartet) as a background. Blown instruments should not be played. Solo singers would be allowed but screens should be considered where it is not possible to protect against droplet transmission by additional distancing.

Celebrating the life of a deceased person, wakes or receptions held in private homes are not allowed at this time.

See further details regarding alert levels on GOV.WALES.

Annex

Guidance to members of the public on the impact of coronavirus restrictions on funerals 

Funerals can be a distressing experience, and the impact of coronavirus is making it even more difficult to make practical arrangements. This guidance has been prepared to help people at this very difficult time.

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 of people in Wales. What is allowed at any time is dependent upon the Alert Level and any additional temporary modifications in place.  Information on the four Alert Levels can be seen here, along with guidance on what is permitted at each level and any transitional arrangements.

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 have been invited to the funeral by the person responsible for arranging 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 2m 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 and any other reasonable precautions they feel are necessary to reduce the risks of people contracting coronavirus. 

This will mean there are limits on the maximum number of people who can physically attend a funeral, dependent on the size of the venue and ability to comply with the physical distancing requirements. This will be clearly communicated to you before the funeral takes place. To help protect against the spread of coronavirus, funerals must 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 by the person responsible for arranging the funeral.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus – a high temperature, a new, persistent cough, or loss of taste or smell – you should not attend but self-isolate and apply for a test.  If you are self-isolating due to a possible case of coronavirus in your household, or as advised by Wales NHS Test, Trace, Protect, you should not attend, unless the deceased is a family member or close friend and your attendance is for compassionate reasons. If this is the case and you decide to attend, you should inform the organiser, the funeral director and/or the venue operator. These people have legal responsibilities in relation to COVID-19 secure arrangements and will need to ensure appropriate measures to facilitate your attendance whilst managing the risk to others.

You should also advise the funeral director, and venue manager in advance that you are in self-isolation as additional safeguards will need to be in place to facilitate your attendance.

Mourners coming into Wales who have travelled to Wales from countries that are not exempt from the requirement to self-isolate can leave their place of self-isolation in limited circumstances including on compassionate grounds. This includes attending a funeral but they are expected to self-isolate for the remainder of the specified 10-day period unless another exemption applies.  Anyone travelling to Wales for a funeral must follow Welsh regulations.  You may also travel to the other UK countries if you have been invited to a funeral, and must follow the restrictions in place in the country you go to.  The funeral organisers can advise on what restrictions are in place in the area.

Funerals can be broadcast and livestreamed so people who cannot be physically present can attend the ceremony virtually. In addition, books of condolence can be opened online and other tributes paid through electronic communications or social media.

In order to reduce the risk to the public, celebrating the life of a deceased person, a wake or reception is dependent upon public health conditions as Wales seeks to transition through the Alert Levels.

If the public health conditions allow:

  • outdoor are permitted for up to 50 people (not including children aged under 11 or carers) as of the 17 May 2021; and
  • indoor wakes are permitted for up to 30 people (not including children aged under 11 or carers) as of the 17 May 2021

Under all Alert Levels, you cannot attend a celebration of a deceased person’s life, wake, or reception if you have been advised to self-isolate by Wales NHS Test, Trace, Protect, or you have symptoms of coronavirus.

The celebration of the life of the deceased, wake, or reception must be held in regulated premises and must be directly associated with a funeral which has taken place on or after 26 March 2020 (when the first lockdown began). Whether these gatherings are permitted depends upon the Alert Level and associated restrictions, and must take place in compliance with the duties on organisers outlined in the Regulations

Guidance has been prepared, in partnership with the hospitality industry, relating to many of the activities which may form part of such an event, when permitted. This guidance can be found here;

Organisers of such events, when permitted, should be particularly aware of the temptation for mourners to mingle, in a way that breaks social distancing, given the circumstances. Therefore, it is essential that protocols are put in place to help attendees remain safe. These protocols will depend on the nature of the venue itself but should include:

  • No buffet service, food and beverage provision should be table service only. 
  • Background music at a low-level volume can be played during the ceremony itself, however communal singing, chanting or dancing should not be carried out; and
  • Speeches can be allowed, but there should be no sharing of microphones. Volume levels to be kept to a reasonable level so guests do not have to raise their voices.

Celebrating the life of a deceased person, a wakes or reception held in private homes are not allowed at this time.

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.

Below is a form of words that could be issued (by the funeral organiser, and the Funeral Director) to all those invited to a funeral in order to inform them of the risk of coming into contact with one or more people who may have or be a contact of someone with COVID-19.

 

PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING BEFORE ATTENDING THE FUNERAL

While COVID-19 is circulating there is always a possibility that one or more people attending the funeral will have the virus and may be infectious.

Please follow the advice of the person arranging the funeral and the Funeral Director and adhere to the mitigation measures in place in order to protect all those attending the funeral.

People who are self-isolating because they are symptomatic, a confirmed case or a contact of a case are allowed to leave self-isolation to attend the funeral of a close friend or family member on compassionate grounds. They do not have to disclose to anyone that they are self-isolating.

If you are self-isolating for COVID-19 reasons and you intend to attend the funeral during your self-isolation period, it is strongly advised that you inform the person arranging the funeral and the Funeral Director that you are leaving self-isolation to attend. You must travel directly to the funeral and return back into self-isolation immediately afterwards. You should endeavour to travel in the safest way possible, avoiding the use of public transport or taxi services, if possible.

If you have been informed you are clinically extremely vulnerable or have previously been on the shielded patient list please consider your intention to attend the funeral very carefully as it is not possible to know who might pose a risk to you while you are there.  While you may choose not to disclose that you are clinically extremely vulnerable, it is strongly advisable you discuss your decision to attend with the person arranging the funeral and/or the Funeral Director before making your decision.

Appendix 1

Those in control of a premises have a legal duty to ensure effective ventilation.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has updated and expanded its advice to help employers provide adequate ventilation in their workplaces and premises during the pandemic. The guidance builds on helping you to identify and take action in poorly ventilated areas. It also provides guidance on other factors to consider when assessing the risk from aerosol transmission, and determining whether adequate ventilation is being provided to reduce this risk.

You should be maximising the fresh air in a space and this can be done by:

  • natural ventilation
  • mechanical ventilation
  • a combination of natural and mechanical ventilation, for example where mechanical ventilation relies on natural ventilation to maximise fresh air

Read the updated guidance on air conditioning and ventilation and find out how you can provide adequate ventilation in your workplace, helping to protect workers and other people from transmission of coronavirus.

There is also advice available for building services, particularly around ventilation of buildings, both in use and when returning to buildings which have been closed from the following:

If buildings have been closed or had reduced occupancy water system stagnation can occur due to lack of use, increasing the risks of Legionnaires disease. HSE guidance covering water management and legionella is available here. (Where mains water has been turned off since the close of the premises at lockdown, when it is reconnected it will need running through to flush away any microbiological or chemical residues built up while the water supply was disconnected).

Steps that will usually be needed:

Checking any water supplies - mains water supplies that have to be reconnected (because they were turned off when a premises was closed) will need running through to flush away any microbiological or chemical residue that might have built up while it was disconnected.

  • The Drinking Water Inspectorate, who are the Regulators and technical experts in England and Wales, has produced this advice on maintaining drinking water quality when reinstating water supplies after temporary closure due to the COVID-19 outbreak
  • Checking whether you need to service or adjust ventilation systems, for example, so that they do not automatically reduce ventilation levels due to lower than normal occupancy levels.
  • Most air conditioning systems do not need adjustment, however where systems serve multiple buildings or you are unsure, advice can be sought from your heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineers or advisers.
  • Removing any fans from, for example, workstations, to avoid the recirculation of air.
  • Opening windows and doors frequently to encourage ventilation, where possible, and if it is safe to do so.

Ventilation and the new variants (technical details for those with mechanical systems)

Ventilation is a key mitigation measure to control the far-field (more than 2 metres) transmission of COVID-19 by aerosols between people who share the same indoor space. Ventilation is not likely to have significant impacts on close range transmission by droplets and aerosols (within 1 to 2 metres) or transmission via contact with surfaces (high confidence).

Higher viral load associated with people who have the new variant could have significant implications for transmission via the air, as previous scientific modelling suggests that viral load is a major determinant of airborne transmission risks.  SAGE before the introduction of the new variant stated; for most workplaces and public environments adequate ventilation equates to a flow rate of 8-10 l/s/person based on design occupancy, although guidance for some environments allows for lower flow rates of 5 l/s/person. Since the introduction of the new variant, SAGE has recommended where possible, increasing ventilation flow rates mentioned above by a factor of 1.7 (70%) to account for the increase in transmissibility.

For some existing and older buildings, ventilation systems may not have been designed to meet current standards and additional mitigations may be needed. As a precautionary measure it is recommended that ventilation is included as part of any workplace or public indoor environment COVID secure risk assessment, and the necessary mitigation measures are adopted.

In most buildings, maintaining comfortable temperatures and humidity above 40-60% relative humidity is likely to be beneficial to reducing the survivability of the virus. However, this is likely to be less important than the ventilation rate mentioned above (medium confidence).

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