UK-Based Non-Profit Calls on Government to Ban Funerals Amid Pandemic

Casket being carried
U.K. funeral advocacy group Good Funeral Guide said "funerals, we know them, cannot go on" during the COVID-19 pandemic. Getty

A British non-profit funeral advocacy group has called for funerals to be banned during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The Good Funeral Guide denounced the U.K. government's decision to not include funerals in recent lockdown guidelines against public gatherings in a blog post Friday.

"With the heaviest of hearts, today we are going against everything that the Good Funeral Guide has become known for over the years, and calling for funerals to be stopped completely," wrote the group's director and CEO Fran Hall. "Now. Today. Just stop."

"The decision to exempt funerals from the current ban on social gatherings was undoubtedly made for compassionate reasons, but the current lack of clear instruction and direction is leading to anguish and suffering beyond imagination," she added.

Hall believes that the lack of clear guidelines concerning funerals during the pandemic is especially dangerous, as the services could potentially expose mourners to the virus and lead to further suffering and bereavement. She called on the government to place a temporary ban on funerals, with unattended burials or cremations being offered as alternatives.

"If a clear directive came from government that funeral ceremonies must stop now, we are certain that the incredible people who dedicate themselves to supporting bereaved and grieving communities will quickly find new ways of creating ritual and meaning in a safe way," Hall wrote. "Funerals, as we know them, cannot go on."

The U.K. has seen COVID-19 cases skyrocket in recent weeks, along with many other countries in Europe and around the world. There were more than 14,500 British cases as of Friday, with over 750 deaths and 135 recoveries. Prince Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson are among those newly diagnosed with the virus.

The world's largest group of funeral professionals, the U.S.-based National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), has urged members to only conduct "limited" funerals and follow current guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CDC guidelines state that any funerals that do take place during the pandemic should be conducted with strict measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Although many have cancelled services in light of the pandemic, there is no official ban on funerals in the U.S. as of Friday.

However, last week during a webinar with NFDA, CDC epidemiologist Dr. David Berendes suggested limiting funerals to include only a small number of close family members or using streaming services to limit exposure.

"As you think about planning for the event, limit the number of people if possible, use live-streaming options and perhaps have only immediately family on hand," said Berendes. "While you're at the event, promote social distancing etiquette, hand hygiene and try to limit other people coming in and out."

Newsweek reached out to the NFDA for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.