Impact of coronavirus on arranging funerals

Grieving Alsager residents were forced to say brief and isolated final farewells to their family members this week and then pin their hopes on a celebration of life service at some point in the future. The latest Government guidelines that went into force this week during the Covid-19 pandemic made it impossible for more people to congregate and with churches already closed, local funeral directors’ only choice was to hold “straight to crem” or graveside services. In a statement on Monday evening, PM Boris Johnson told the UK: “We will stop all gatherings of more than two people in public - excluding people you live with; and we'll stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals. However, as the Chronicle went to press yesterday (Wednesday), the Government’s new guidelines on funeral procedure had not been released. Recently bereaved Chronicle reader Richard Wharfe said his family had “no option, but to settle for an unattended cremation with no attendees, even close family” for his father's funeral. He said: “We hope that we can have a celebration of his life in the future, when all this madness is over. “This certainly wasn't what we wanted for Dad, in any shape or form,  but under the unprecedented circumstances we felt we had no option.” On its website, The Church of England stated: “All Church of England churches will close with immediate effect in line with the Government's instructions. We will give a fuller statement of advice as soon as possible. Funerals at the graveside or in crematoriums can still take place, but only in line with the prime minister's statement.” The Methodist Church posted on its website on Tuesday: “The number of people attending a funeral should be kept to a minimum - with those in attendance observing suitable social distancing as per the Government's advice. Those over the age of 70 and those with an underlying health condition are strongly discouraged from attending in the present circumstances.” Biddulph funeral director, Ryan Dolman, of Dolven Funeral Services, told the Chronicle before the weekend that his firm had implemented new procedures since the Covid-19 pandemic. He said: “Dolven has two chapels of rest, so in the event that a family member wishes to visit their loved ones this will be limited to immediate family only. “Cremation services will take place at the crematorium with limited family members in attendance. “Graveside service is at the discretion of the church, council and the governing body with limited family attendance (this could change at any time) we are in constant communication with the local churches and the National Association of Funeral Directors.
“Name taking will be temporarily stopped due to the social distancing instructions. “All Dolven staff have been issued with hand sanitisers to use throughout the day.” Mr Dolman added: “At Dolven, we are still allowing family or any member of the public to enter our premises but this will be limited and at the discretion of the owners, Ryan Dolman and Neil Venables. Due to this, our cleaning procedure has been increased to a full clean down at least three to four times daily or at any time a family that we are serving or member of the public enter our premises we are to implement a further clean down process.” “Please note that here at Dolven, just like any other business we are taking all necessary steps to ensure the safety of all our families and staff and please note that this could change at any time. “All families need to appreciate that if the situation worsens that local councils and other governing bodies may enforce a different funeral pro
cedure which we will have to adhere to.” Jason Clegg, of Larvin and Clegg Funeral Directors, Congleton, told the Chronicle on Saturday: "The coronavirus is impacting every aspect of life at the moment, and funeral care is no exception. “We are having to adapt our service to meet the needs of clients who may be self-isolating. The current preventions are stopping some people from attending funeral ceremonies and most church services are now closed. We are aware that arranging a funeral is an emotionally difficult process under normal conditions, so adding the coronavirus to things makes it even more challenging. “For those in self-isolation we have decided to offer that funeral arrangements can be made over the phone rather than face-to-face. We will phone the client and discuss all aspects of the funeral. We will make all the necessary arrangements via telephone and then we will complete all the necessary paperwork on their behalf. We will then post the documents to them, for signature. We will include a stamped addressed envelope so the documents can
be returned to us with minimal interaction. Any payments that need to made can be done via a debit or credit card, and again over the telephone.” Mr Clegg said: “We are aware that people still want to pay their respects and see the service. Macclesfield Crematorium offers a webcast live streaming service, allowing people to watch the funeral service online. There is normally an additional fee for a webcast, but during the current climate, we are going to offer this option at no extra charge. “Another alternative is our 'Cremation Without A Ceremony service'. The deceased is cremated in private and with no family in attendance. A few days later the ashes are returned back to the family. These can then be either scattered, or kept for a later 'thanksgiving'-type service, celebration of life, or memorial. "Given that we have no idea when normality will return, this could be a useful option.” •  We hope to print an update on this situation next week and we urge local funeral directors to email us on chronicleseries@aol.com — Editor.