This is an unprecedented time in our history. The COVID-19 pandemic is having an impact on the health of our loved ones, our work, our businesses, our health system and the way we live our daily lives. We are currently dealing with a serious wave of infections centred around a far more infections strain of Covid and funeral staff are being asked to continue to handle services with 30 people in attendance, some of whom may be isolating or even have tested positive, so please be patient with the measures we are using to protect both our clients and our staff at this time.
Before giving the latest updates we would like to assure you that we are still available 24 hours a day to answer questions and support you if you are confused, worried or dealing with a bereavement. We are fully set up so that family or friends can arrange a funeral by phone or video chat with all paperwork sent immediately and signed electronically for your safety.
Last updated Tuesday 16th February at 10am
Directives and Guidelines
As with daily life under Covid the situation regarding funerals is changing fast. We are complying with all guidelines for the safety of both clients and staff and in order to fulfil our social responsibility to the community we serve. Here is the current situation according to the latest guidelines:
- LATEST UPDATE – Please be advised that, due to a sharp increase in demand, cases referred to the Coroner’s Department are at present taking up to 3 weeks or longer to be dealt with. We will keep this post updated as we monitor this situation.
- Funeral attendance is not changed under Tier 4 lockdown with a maximum of 30 people being allowed in some chapels.
- The current attendance limits at Southend allow for up to 30 people in the West Chapel and 12 people in the smaller South Chapel. Other crematoria will have their own limits and we will advise on this if it is relevant.
- Mourners who are classed as extremely vulnerable are now permitted to attend funerals with special arrangements to be made by the family and funeral director to ensure their safety.
- Mourners from households where any members have shown symptoms are advised not to attend although close family who are symptomatic are allowed to attend if they really want to. In this case the other guests and the funeral director should be informed so that they can take necessary precautions. Please note this is certainly not possible for someone who is symptomatic to attend if one or more vulnerable people are in attendance.
- In order to facilitate current Track and Trace practices the Next of Kin or a nominated individual should keep a record of all mourners who attend a funeral as well as any individuals who travel in a limousine. This information should be kept for 21 days and then disposed of. We advise that you also register with NHS track and trace at the crematorium, the codes are available outside the chapels.
- We are now able to offer the use of a limousine. Ideally this would be for 4 people though we can accommodate a maximum of 6 people and wearing masks in the limousine is mandatory. If anyone is isolating or has had a coronavirus test or has tested positive then they are not permitted to use a limousine for the safety of both guests and staff.
- When doing funeral arrangements current social distancing requirements constrain the number of individuals visiting the office to no more than 2 at a time. Mask wearing is now mandatory for both staff and clients during an arrangement due to prolonged close proximity.
- If you are vulnerable or on lockdown or just want to be careful maintaining social distance we are very happy to do telephone and/or video arrangements. We are set up to do this quickly and efficiently and all paperwork can be sent to you and electronically signed immediately after the virtual meeting.
- During the funeral the coffin will be carried into the chapel before the mourners enter in order to maintain social distance and protect all attending from unnecessary exposure. Once the bearers have left family and mourners will be invited into the chapel.
- Unfortunately family members are not able to carry the coffin at present. This is for two reasons; firstly it is to maintain social distance between mourners and the funeral professionals in attendance. Secondly the coffin is cleaned and sterilised for the service and the crematorium rules, in accordance with government guidelines, state that no-one but the funeral staff can touch the coffin prior to cremation.
- At the present time we are not able to offer open casket viewings in our Chapel of Rest for loved ones who have passed from, or tested positive for, the Coronavirus*. We are now providing closed casket viewings in these cases upon request. (Preparations for open casket viewing involves prolonged contact between staff and the deceased and we have been advised that it could present a hazard for both family and staff. We will be reviewing this and other identified risks as we move forward and will make viewings available as soon as we can do so safely.)
- *For those who’s passing is not related to the virus we are able to arrange viewings under carefully controlled conditions. Under present regulations embalming will be required for a viewing. Please contact us for more information regarding this.
- Curtains will be closed during the committal at all cremations and mourners will not be permitted to approach, touch or lay flowers on the coffin.
- We are now able to take donations during the service, however the donations will be transferred into a sealed envelope and given to the Next of Kin after the service. Please note, as money can easily transfer the virus we do this using surgical gloves and we advise any family members touching the donations to exercise caution.
- Services in churches or other places of worship are now permitted, each church or place of worship will have its own regulations and restrictions in place.
- Your Celebrant or Minister will provide all service information and usually do all arrangements with you over the phone. In some circumstances celebrants are happy to meet in an outside space such as a garden or park in order to do the arrangement face to face.
- No hymn books will be laid out in the chapel to avoid contamination.
- Singing, chanting and instruments that require blowing are now banned from all crematoria, so unfortunately it is not possible to sing hymns during the service at present.
- If you come into our office for any reason you will be asked to scan the QR code in the front office so that NHS Track and Trace can be activated for everyone’s safety.
- All local crematoria have the facility to provide webcasts of your service that will be streamed live and available afterwards. There is a charge for this service but Penrose will cover that charge for you while attendance restrictions remain in place.
Some changes have now been enacted into law concerning the process of registering a death and planning a funeral. Here are the ones that may be relevant to bereaved families:
- It is now possible to present documents electronically (that previously had to be presented physically) in order to certify the registration of a death
- It is no longer necessary to have a second confirmatory medical certificate in order for a cremation to take place. The direct result for those arranging a funeral is that there will be a £82 reduction in the funeral cost as well as an accelerated timeframe.
This is the current situation concerning funerals and we will keep this updated as often as required. These guidelines are clearly set in place to protect the health and wellbeing of all concerned. We are very sorry that this can severely limit the opportunity for family and friends to say farewell to a loved one and we assure you that we will do all we can to help minimise the disruption caused.
What to do in the event of a death
The situation concerning bringing your loved ones into our care is also affected by the need to keep our staff as safe as possible. However the majority of the procedures are still the same as normal and you can see clear information on who to call and when to call them here. Of course you can call us at any time on 01702 436000 for advice and help and an immediate response in the event of a death.
Non Covid deaths
When a death occurs at home or in a care home or hospice without knowledge of infection we cannot, unfortunately, be sure that no infection is present. For this reason our staff will take careful precautions and wear aprons, masks and gloves while taking care of your loved one. We will have to treat each case as if infection might be present and take all reasonable precautions.
When death occurs with someone who is known to carry, or suspected to carry, the Covid 19 infection extra precautions will have to be taken. We will still come to your home to take your loved one into our care and we will still treat the deceased with full respect and dignity. We will, however, be required to enter the premises with great care in full PPE suits and we will follow strict safety guidelines at every stage. We are aware that this can seem quite intense and distressing at a time of deep personal loss and we apologise for this but we ask everyone to be understanding about the risks our staff are taking and the care we must provide to them as well as to the departed.
We take the health and safety of our staff and clients very seriously, but you should be assured that we will still treat the deceased with the same respect and care as always.
How to arrange a funeral
Bereaved in isolation
For those in self-isolation making funeral arrangements can be daunting so please contact us on 01702 436 000 if you need advice. We have set up our systems so that we can do all of the arrangements for you over the phone – or by video call – and handle all of the paperwork and signing electronically.
Even if you are not in self isolation we would still encourage you to make use of our excellent facilities for handling all discussions and planning by phone or video call in order to protect both yourselves and our staff from risk of contamination. If you wish to come into the office to do the arrangement then please note that a maximum of 3 people can attend the arrangement and you are strongly requested to wear masks while on the premises.
Watching the funeral from home
Local crematoria can set up live webcasts for funerals so that all family and friends are able to observe the funeral in real time. If there is any charge involved for this then Penrose will happily cover that charge for all of our clients.
As an independent family run funeral director we are dedicated to a high quality of service and care to our clients. Because of this we ask families to remain patient as we update our health and safety procedures and deal with the increased workload and issues caused by staff who have to self isolate.
Lastly we extend our personal sympathy to those experiencing bereavement and having to deal with all of the extra issues raised by the Coronavirus. Our commitment remains to serve our clients and our local community as best we can whilst adhering to guidelines and protecting our staff and clients to the best of our ability.