Funeral rules explained in England as cap on mourners finally lifted from May 17

The 30-person limit on funerals in England will be scrapped early – as soon as May 17, the Government has confirmed.

The cap on mourners is set to be axed ahead of schedule when England enters Step Three of its roadmap out of lockdown.

Currently funerals can only have 30 attendees while wakes are limited to 15 – a limit that was maintained for Prince Philip’s memorial service.

It was set to be reconsidered in step four of the roadmap, but Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed today it would be brought forward to step three “after careful consideration.”

“Losing a loved one has been incredibly hard during the pandemic,” Mr Jenrick said.

The 30-person limit was stuck to even by the Queen for the funeral of her husband
The 30-person limit was stuck to even by the Queen for the funeral of her husband

“And I am pleased we are now in a position, thanks to everyone’s continued efforts and the rollout of the vaccine, to remove these limits and allow more friends and family to come together and pay their respects.”

Here’s how the rules are changing – and what’s happening to other events like wakes, weddings and christenings.

What are the rules now?

England is current in Step Two of its lockdown roadmap.

That means funerals can take place with up to 30 attendees, or fewer if social distancing can’t be maintained in the venue.

This is different to wakes, stone-settings and ash-scatterings which can only take place with 15 people.

Ditto weddings and wedding receptions can only take place with 15 people, and only in venues which are already allowed to open (so, essentially, outdoors).

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At funeral services, mourners are told to stay at least 2 metres away from others outside their household or support bubble; wash hands regularly and refrain from singing, chanting or “raised voices”.

Mourners must also wear face coverings in any indoor places of worship. They may travel to a funeral and stay overnight in a hotel but should take private transport where possible.

What is changing from May 17?

After “careful consideration”, the hard legal limit of 30 mourners is being axed when England enters Step Three of the roadmap.

This will be from May 17 at the earliest. Currently the government still expects the date to be May 17. It’ll be confirmed on May 10.

Instead of a 30-person limit, venues will decide how many people can attend safely while still keeping up the social distancing rules listed above. That means two metres between mourners, or one metre plus mitigations like masks, screens and ventilation.

It’s thought the new rules will apply to both indoor and outdoor services – but not wakes (more below).

Will things change further from June 21?

Yes. At some point the government will drop or relax social distancing rules – more on this below.

Wakes and other commemorative events are also still very restricted in Step Three and this should relax further from June 21.

Do we know all the details yet?

No. Mr Jenrick said: “I look forward to working with faith leaders responsible for places of worship, and those who manage venues such as funeral homes, to introduce the new arrangements in a way that continues to keep people safe.”

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Will I be able to hug fellow mourners?

It’s not yet clear. Currently, you can’t unless they’re in your household or bubble.

The government had said it would provide an update on social distancing between loved ones from May 17, but this hasn’t been published yet.

The May 17 update said: “As soon as possible, and no later than Step 3, the Government will update its advice on social distancing between friends and family, including hugging.” This will “enable the public to make informed personal decisions”.

Social distancing rules are then due to be lifted more widely from June 21.

What about wakes?

They are not covered by the change in the rules.

However, they will be able to proceed with up to 30 attendees from May 17 at the earliest, rather than 15 as now.

What about weddings, christenings and bar mitzvahs?

They are not covered by the change in the rules.

However, weddings and wedding receptions will be able to proceed with up to 30 attendees from May 17 at the earliest, rather than 15 as now.

They will also be allowed to take place indoors for the first time.

Other life events like christenings and bar mitzvahs will be allowed for the first time this year from May 17 at the earliest.

Again, for all of these events people must wait until June 21 for the rules to be lifted further.



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