Council announces big change on funerals at York Crematorium

York Crematorium. Photograph: Minster FM
15 May 2020 @ 8.00 pm
| News

It’s been one of the most vexed issues in York during the lockdown.

But tonight (Friday) City of York Council announced it is soon to change its ban on indoor funerals at York Crematorium

Chapel services at the crematorium will resume from Monday 1 June.

A council spokeswoman said: “Following the Government’s announcement that we are now entering Phase 2 of the coronavirus emergency, from 1 June, mourners will be able to attend funeral services inside the chapel at the crematorium, whilst respecting social distancing measures.

“As part of these changes and taking into account strict social distancing measures required by Government, and the ever-present risks relating to the spread of coronavirus, the Crematorium will return to permitting attendance in pre-closure numbers.”

This will allow up to ten close family members in the main crematorium chapel, and five in the small chapel.

Three key tests

The canopy at York Crematorium. Photograph: Martin Rowley

The council sparked dismay and upset by at first banning all funeral services and family members at the crematorium. It later revised the policy and allowed close family to wait in a covered area outside.

That “incredibly difficult” decision was taken in light of the increasing number of Covid-19 related deaths and to protect the health and safety of bereaved families, funeral directors and staff, the spokeswoman said.

In order to take the decision to reopen the chapel at the Crematorium, three tests have been established to allow inside funeral services to resume. These tests are:

  • The availability of key worker testing;
  • The provision of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • A decrease in the number of coronavirus infections and deaths.

By establishing these tests, the council “has been able to monitor and identify the most appropriate time to resume services inside the chapel”.

The national key worker testing scheme to protect the crematorium team, and additional PPE provision, are now in place.

The crematorium team is also modifying, where necessary, the layout of services and new cleaning regimes will be undertaken to ensure all the requirements of the national guidance are met for social distancing and hygiene.

It is anticipated that by 1 June, the transmission (R) rates will fall, along with a reduction in death rates, although the number of funerals sadly currently remain high.

If this proves not to be the case and the three tests are not met, the council may have to consider adjusting the number of bookings that are taken, or reintroducing some restrictions, in order to reduce the risk to bereaved families, funeral directors and crematorium staff.