09.04.20: Information updated
Updated information and links to guidance for funeral restrictions in Sheffield. This includes further details relating to Muslim burials.
The changes and reasons why
What are the new rules around the number of mourners who can attend a funeral in relation to the coronavirus outbreak?
- Following Government and Public Health England advice, in the fight against Coronavirus Sheffield City Council has placed a restriction on the number of attendees at SCC funerals to a maximum of 5 mourners. This applies to all funerals at council cemeteries and crematoriums. This came in to effect from Wednesday March 25 2020.
- A highly precautionary approach is being taken to try to control what we can in terms of epidemic spread. This decision was made after much thought and detailed consideration of the Government guidance as advised by the Director of Public Health.
Why are the numbers of mourners being restricted?
- Large numbers of people attending funerals and gatherings would facilitate the spread of the virus by encouraging the mixing of different households and this is particularly risky if people are living in households with multiple generations (mother, father, grandparents and children).
- Older people (over 70) and those with underlying health conditions are at increased risk of infection from coronavirus and experience more severe symptoms and are more likely to require hospital treatment.
- Unless it is for a specific reason, at this moment of national emergency, it is vital that everyone stays at home, to protect the NHS and save lives.
- If the deceased has neither household or family members in attendance, then it is possible for a modest number of friends to attend but again this must be restricted to 5.
Government rules on social distancing
- All gatherings of more than two people in public have been stopped with the exception of funerals. Reducing day-to-day contact with other people in our family and community reduces the spread of infection and onward transmission of the virus.
- The Government has published guidance on social distancing
Restrictions for funeral services
- No more than 5 mourners may now attend funerals. Mourners must observe social distance guidance.
- In addition to restricting the number of mourners attending funerals, the council has also had to restrict other services. These include a temporary suspension of the burial of ashes, scattering of ashes and temporary closure of the halls of remembrance.
Contacting the Funeral Director
- Following the death of a family member, contact the Funeral Director as soon as possible so they can start preparations and agree a date for the service.
- For Muslim burials, inform them you are looking for a short notice burial according to Islamic tradition and in the Muslim section of the cemetery
Changes to the Death Registration Process
- The 5 day rule to register a death is stopped temporarily.
- The Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD), which would have been given to you in a sealed envelope, will now be scanned and sent electronically from the GP, Bereavement Centre or Coroner’s Office directly to the Register Office.
- Where ever possible an appointment to register a death should be booked online as the phone lines are very busy. Please remember to add contacts details for the next of kin. The Register Office will then contact the next of kin to register the death by telephone only
- All death registrations will now take place over the phone if you do not have online access you can call 0114 2039427 to register a death. You will not be required to attend the Register Office in person as this is now closed to the public
- After the death registration appointment has been completed the Registrar will send the Green Form 9 electronically to the Crematorium Bereavement services and the Funeral Director as appropriate. This will allow the body to be released for burial.
- Emergency burial service Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays 9am to 5pm call 07802864178, or 07764661143
- Until further notice local mosques cannot be used for funeral services. This can only take place at the grave side for a maximum of 5 immediate family members only.
Performing the Ghusl
- Government directive states that “mourners should not take part in rituals or practices that bring them into close contact with the body. Contact with the body should be restricted to those who are wearing PPE and have been trained in the appropriate use of PPE”
- Given the very significant risk for vulnerable (over 70) and those people with underlying health conditions who come into contact with the virus, it is strongly advised that they have no contact with the body. This includes washing, preparing or dressing the body.
- It is recognised that household members who may have come into contact with the virus over the course of the illness in the deceased person. However, even in these cases, we strongly advise against further contact with the body without appropriate PPE or being appropriately trained in the use of PPE.
- Sheffield City Council cannot supply PPE from either the council or the NHS – this resource is stretched and already allocated to essential care workers as appropriate.
- More guidance is available at
- HSE guidance Managing infection risks when handling the deceased
- PPE guidance from The Royal College of Pathologists
- Guidance for the donning and doffing of PPE equipment
Cemetery Protocols and Procedures
People are asked to follow these protocols and procedures to ensure all requirements are met sympathetically and protect religious rights, beliefs and most importantly keep everyone safe.
How many people can attend the Cemetery?
- A maximum of 5 immediate family members (members of same household or close family members). All Funeral Directors will be kept informed.
- If the deceased has neither household or family members in attendance, then it is possible for friends to attend, observing the maximum number of 5.
- Government guidance states: Social Distancing of at least 2 meters (3 steps) to be observed at all times, including when travelling to and from the funeral.
Who can attend the Cemetery?
- Funeral Director
- Up to 5 maximum immediate family members (to be discussed with the Funeral Director)
- Individuals who have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), or who are part of a household where someone has symptoms, or who are vulnerable (over 70 and have an underlying health condition) should not participate in rituals or religious gatherings and should be self-isolating at home.
- The cemetery requests that attendees do not arrive at different times and follow on behind the hearse observing the social distancing rules (stand 2 metres apart).
Funeral Prayer (Janazah Salaah)
- Funeral prayer must only take place at the cemetery at the grave site.
- The Imam should lead the Salaah (observing the minimum requirements) and the rest in attendance should stand behind observing the social distancing rule.
- After the Janazah Salaah, the deceased should be buried immediately.
- Only those lowering the body should be at the side of the grave, everyone else should maintain adequate distance observing the social distancing rule.
- The deceased should be buried in a coffin complete with nameplate.
Backfilling of the Grave
- The immediate family will come to the grave side and proceed to backfill the grave observing the social distancing rule.
- Once this is complete the family can shape the grave and conclude the final religious rites observing the social distancing rule.
- There may be more requests for the cemetery workers to backfill the grave after the coffin is placed inside. Unfortunately, we have to take measures to reduce availability of bereavement staff to backfill graves, both in terms of safety of the digging machinery and in terms of social distancing. As the number of deceased increases and more people become ill, this will begin to impact on the number of staff available.
- If wishing to backfill the grave, both mourners and funeral directors must remain two metres away from council staff. The funeral director or family must also bring their own spades for the backfilling of a grave.
- Use of Mechanical Diggers to fill the grave: Some people feel that in these unprecedented circumstances if a mechanical digger was made available it would be helpful to speed up the filling the grave. The practice of hand-filling can still be carried out by putting a few handfuls of earth onto the grave.
- We are working across council services and with partners to increase the number of diggers available for filling all required graves, including for Muslim burials. However, we cannot have council staff at the grave site whilst mourners are present for the reasons outlined above.
- In addition to this we cannot guarantee that a mechanical digger will be available at specific burial times (particularly when booked at short notice) as they are required across the city wherever burials are taking place. We will however ensure that all graves are filled in as soon as possible and this will always be on the same day.
Further information and advice
Sheffield Faith Communities – This website is a dedicated resource and information for faith communities in Sheffield and surrounding areas. You can use this website to get updated information from your faith communities and further information from Public health that may help you
The Sheffield Faith Sector lead will coordinate the faith communities response to how they will care for those who have died from coronavirus. Contact by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Government guidance for caring for the deceased
People are asked to discuss any concerns or queries with their chosen funeral director.
27.03.20 Changes to funeral services in Sheffield
As part of steps to manage the impact of Coronavirus, and taking into account national guidance relating to social distancing, Sheffield City Council has announced changes relating to its cemeteries and crematoria service.
With immediate effect, the number of mourners who will be allowed at any funeral service (chapel, cremation, burials and graveside services) will be restricted to a maximum of five people.
Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure at Sheffield City Council, said: “In line with government guidance, we must advise that families restrict attendance at funerals to a maximum of five. I know this will be very hard and upsetting for people but we must all do everything we can to protect everyone from the spread of this virus.
“We are working on being able to webcast services free of charge where possible but we currently don’t have this facility. We encourage mourners to consider holding ‘celebrations of life’ for deceased loved ones later in the year.”
Anyone who is self-isolating should not attend a funeral, and those in vulnerable groups such as people with underlying health conditions and pregnant women should consider staying at home as per Government guidelines.
Cllr Lea added: “We continue to monitor all of the guidance regarding coronavirus very closely. We have 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, partners and those we work closely with, is protected.
“We have had no choice but to introduce a number of changes to the cemeteries and crematoria services provided by the council. We fully recognise the impact of these changes and we apologise for any discomfort or distress this may cause.
“Please be assured that we will constantly review how we deliver our cemeteries and crematoria services in line with national guidance. We will make changes as appropriate and will also remain in contact with funeral directors to keep them informed of any service changes.
“The death of a loved one is extremely distressing at any time; I understand that these new restrictions will make the grieving process even more difficult but we must prioritise protecting the vulnerable and our NHS services in every way possible.”
In addition to restricting the number of mourners attending funerals, the council has also had to restrict other services. These include a temporary suspension of the burial of ashes, scattering of ashes and temporary closure of the halls of remembrance.
Mourners are asked to respect the two metre social distance rule at the graveside.
Those wishing to backfill the grave, both mourners and funeral directors, must also ensure they follow Government guidance on social distancing, remaining at least two metres away from staff to ensure everyone’s safety. The funeral director or family must also bring their own spades for the backfilling of a grave.
Anyone with queries relating to a funeral service should direct these through their chosen funeral director who will work closely with the council’s cemeteries and crematoria service.