New emergency measures have been put in place to limit the number of people attending funerals across Birmingham, following national guidance to ensure social distancing is enforced.

The ‘extreme’ clampdown on bereavement services has come into force after reports of confusion about protocol at recent funeral and wake services, resulting in services with too many mourners present.

Birmingham City Council is enforcing government social distancing measures to ensure no more than six people attend funeral services ASdqo
Birmingham Council will enforce government social distancing measures to ensure limited funeral services

Where funerals are taking place, attendance will be reduced to six people, consisting of the immediate family only. This does not include the official conducting the service.

Birmingham City Council has imposed a limit of six people per funeral, consisting of the immediate family only. This does not include the official conducting the service.

This is despite other councils, such as Luton, and Bradford, allowing up to 20 visitors to a funeral.

Services are to be a maximum of 30 minutes, while funeral directors will be able to assist with the rules about social distancing.

Restrictions on funerals, including religious ceremonies:

  • No more than 6 people must attend the funeral, not including the official conducting the service.
  • Social distancing must be observed at all times during funeral services.
  • Individuals with coronavirus symptoms must not attend funerals.
  • Individuals who are unwell are being encouraged to take precautions or not attend funerals.
  • Protective face masks and gloves are encouraged when attending funerals.

Men wear face masks, gloves and coverall suits during the Islamic funeral service for Afsar Hussain from BirminghamSupplied
Men wear face masks, gloves, and overall suits during  Islamic funeral service for Afsar Hussain from Birmingham

In a statement, Birmingham City Council said: “We understand this is an extreme measure, however, it is imperative that the necessary precautions are taken to stop the spread of the virus.

“With this in mind, we welcome the recording of funerals and are working closely with funeral directors to implement a live streaming service,” it added. “Should the family wish for this to be used, it will be an available option for any wider family members, friends, or loved ones who wish to be a part of the funeral.”

Birmingham City Council has also confirmed the choice of funeral requested will be adhered to in line with any religious beliefs, while access to all cemeteries and crematoria will be closed to the public.

Other national measures being taken include the registration of deaths over the telephone, the electronic transfer of documents, and no further bookings for burial or witness scatterings of cremated remains.

COVID19 coronavirus funeral arrangements BirminghamBCC
Birmingham’s Cllr Sharon Thompson and Shabana Mahmood MP are working together to ensure religious funeral rites are protected during the coronavirus crisis

Cllr Sharon Thompson, Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods, has been working closely with Birmingham Ladywood MP Shabana Mahmood, to ensure the government guidelines protect the rights of religious rites during funerals being held in the city.

She said: “Over the weekend I have been in discussions with Shabana Mahmood MP and other community leaders following the Government’s announcements about burials. Shabana has arranged for us to liaise directly with the Government on behalf of residents at this difficult time.”

Cllr Thompson said while she appreciates the ‘variance of social distancing rules at funerals’ across local authorities in the West Midlands, she argues each local authority will have based their decision on the facilities, the welfare of staff, and their ability to conduct funerals on site.

“I appreciate this is an incredibly difficult time and I would urge all communities to please follow Government guidance on COVID 19, she said: “This is very serious and the only way we reduce the severity is through following measures such as social distancing and cleanliness.”

“We are clear – having fewer people at funerals will, we hope, help us see fewer funerals,” she added.

The news comes as it was revealed the West Midlands had the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the UK outside of London.

According to Sandwell Council, discussions are also underway to use Birmingham Airport as a mortuary, should the crisis become more severe; while the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) is set to be used as a ‘field hospital’.

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WATCH: Sharon Thompson on coronavirus crisis funeral restrictions:

For more information on coronavirus and official NHS guidelines, click here.

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