Leeds City Council has announced no new bookings will be taken for chapel funeral services due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that any booked from now on would be cremation-only services with no attendees, writes Richard Beecham.
It added that while services may be webcast free of charge where possible, it may not be possible to provide the service for every funeral, and that mourners should consider holding ‘celebrations of life’ for deceased loved ones later in the year.
A statement confirmed any chapel funeral services already arranged will go ahead as planned, but it is advised families should consider restricting attendance to close family and friends only, to minimise the number of people gathering.
The authority said the elderly, anyone with underlying health conditions and pregnant women are should consider not attending a chapel service as per government guidelines.
A statement from the Leeds City Council added:
“Any new services booked in from today, will be undertaken as ‘direct cremation services’ only. A ‘direct cremation’ is a funeral which is not attended by mourners and has no service.
“We would ask families who wish to have a service, to discuss alternative options with their respective funeral director.”
Although the authority has the facility to webcast the funeral services of those already booked, it would be unable to guarantee the continuation of the service.
The statement added:
“Our webcast is currently experiencing a larger than normal demand, and as such it is not possible to guarantee that this service will be fully available. Where possible, the council will seek to provide the webcasting facility free of charge.”
In relation to burials and graveside services, burials will go ahead as planned.
The statement added:
“In line with government guidance, we would advise that families consider restricting attendance at graveside services to close family and friends only, so to minimise the number of people gathering at the graveside.”
The council added it would work with funeral directors to make sure those affected by issues relating to coronavirus ‘are able to pay their respects to loved ones who have passed away’. It added one example of this would be to potentially hold celebration of life services later in the year.
Councillor Mohammed Rafique, Leeds City Council’s executive member for environment and active lifestyles, said: “
We are continuing to monitor all of the guidance regarding coronavirus very closely, and in what is very unprecedented times, we are having to make extremely difficult decisions in terms of the services we provide to ensure that the health and well-being of the public, council staff and partners and stakeholders we work closely with, is protected.
“With that in mind we have from today introduced a number of changes to the cemeteries and crematoria services provided by the council. We fully recognise that these changes may have an impact on some services for families of loved ones and we apologise for any discomfort or distress this may cause.
“It is extremely important that we consider fully the health of all those attending and staff, and please be assured we are continuing to monitor how we continue to deliver our cemeteries and crematoria services, and will make changes as appropriate. We will also continue to be in close dialogue with funeral directors to also keep them informed of any service changes.”