Editor's note: This release was updated with the latest information regarding services on the 18th May 2020.
A series of new measures have been put into place to help keep families and loved ones safe during services at Leeds City Council’s cemeteries and crematoria.
We are also providing more information on the options available to bereaved families to help them find the most appropriate way of paying their respects for their loved ones at this challenging time.
As part of ongoing efforts to manage the impact and potential spread of coronavirus, Leeds City Council has today announced a number further changes to services, with the aim of ensuring people are able to pay their respects whilst observing important social distancing regulations.
The updated policy will mean that from today:
- All cemeteries and crematoria grounds are open to the general public subject to social distancing guidelines being adhered to. Certain buildings in our crematoria, including the crematoria chapel, book of remembrance and any other ancillary buildings are closed to public access.
- Direct cremations and burials can still go ahead as planned. Restrictions are in place in terms of the number of mourners that are able to be present. More information is provided below.
The following arrangements are in place regarding crematoria/direct cremations and burial committals:
In relation to direct cremations, only the funeral director and one officiant will be allowed to enter the crematoria chapel building. Although mourners are not allowed into any of the crematoria buildings, we are aware that some families may wish to attend the crematoria grounds and view the coffin being moved from the hearse into the chapel for a short period of time and mourners are invited to do so provided that, no more than 10 people attend and who are from the same household as that of the deceased and or close family members. Where there are no close family members in attendance, a small number of close family friends may attend. Social distancing of two metres between people must be maintained at all times.
During this emergency period, an officiant may wish to do a short service/eulogy outside of the crematoria chapel in view of the bereaved family rather than do it inside. There are many options for families to consider and their choice will depend on each family's particular circumstances and preferences. We will be continuing to work closely with funeral directors, different faith groups and those leading services, to ensure the most appropriate options are considered for each family.
Families may also wish to make alternative arrangements for services either through their own chapels or through a local church or funeral director and we would ask families to discuss alternative options with their funeral director.
In terms of holding a service, families may also wish to defer the date in which it is held until sometime after the actual funeral, when the lock-down and social distancing rules have been lifted. This could allow vulnerable family members and friends who are currently unable to attend due to self -isolation or being shielded under the current restrictions, to attend.
The decision to not hold a funeral service at the crematorium reflects the challenge the council faces in being one of the largest burial and cremation authorities outside of London and the need for the council to ensure business continuity during this period of emergency. The council has a small team of qualified crematorium technicians in post, who need to be in attendance during each cremation. Should the technicians be unavailable because they are ill or self-isolating, the council’s ability to carry out cremations would be adversely affected or prevented and sadly with the volume of cremations that we are experiencing, there is no ability to sanitise and deep clean between services during this time.
The council has subsequently redeployed council officers from other services to assist with public facing tasks in order to minimise all social contact and to help to ensure that technicians remain safe and well and are able to continue to carry out cremations.
Burial and graveside committals:
In line with other neighbouring authorities, the council are now restricting the number of mourners’ at graveside burials to 10 in order to ensure that social distancing can be maintained at all times.
We would also ask that all graveside committals are limited to no more than 15 minutes to enable our grave digging staff time to backfill the grave and move to other sites as required.
In relation to visiting the crematoria grounds and or attending a graveside committal we would remind both funeral directors, faith leaders, those leading services and mourners of the following key points when attending as follows:
- Funeral directors and those leading the funeral service are advised to restrict the number of mourners who attend funerals, so a safe distance of two metres can be maintained.
- Only members of the deceased person’s household or close family members should attend funerals.
- Any individual displaying symptoms of Covid-19 should not attend
- Those who do attend will need to adhere to social distancing at all times, including when travelling to and from the funeral.
- Mourners are strongly advised not to take part in any rituals or practices that bring them into contact with the body of a person who has died from or with symptoms of Covid-19.
- If the deceased has neither household or family members in attendance, then it is possible for a modest number of friends to attend.
The elderly and anyone with underlying health conditions and pregnant women are particularly encouraged to pay attention to current government guidance and to consider not visiting the crematoria or attending a burial or graveside service.
Councillor Mohammed Rafique, Leeds City Council’s executive member for environment and active lifestyles, said: “Due to the continued challenges posed by coronavirus, we are today announcing further changes to our cemeteries and crematoria policy. This forms part of our continued work across all services to ensure that the health and well-being of the public, council staff and partners and all stakeholders we work closely with, is protected as best as possible.
“In terms of implementing direct cremations only, it was with great sadness that as a council we had to take the decision because of coronavirus. We fully recognise and appreciate that it is heart breaking and deeply upsetting to not be able to console someone at a funeral especially during a time when it is natural for people to come closer together. In these unprecedented times we must however do everything we can to protect the health and wellbeing of people, and that is why we are asking that mourners do not seek to enter the crematoria chapel and also please respect social distancing guidelines at all times.
“We are also aware that many families and friends have not been able to attend a funeral, either because they are ill themselves or in isolation or fall within the vulnerable groups. With that in mind, we are continuing to work closely with funeral directors on what avenues are available for people to pay their respects to loved ones, whilst at the same time, continue to keep the public fully informed of any further service changes.”