Members of the Association of Independent Celebrants (AOIC) have been left “angry and confused” after it said updated government guidance seemingly gives mourners who have been instructed by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate a ‘pass’ to attend funerals.
The AOIC has spoken of its “fears” for the health of its 200-plus members, and their ability to work if mourners who should be in self isolation attend funerals.
The Department of Health and Social Care updated its guidance on attending and organising funerals on October 23.
It clearly states that people should not attend funerals if they have been instructed by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate because they have tested positive for COVID-19, or they are in close contact with someone who has tested positive.
It said: “It is a legal offence for a person who is required to self-isolate to attend a funeral under any circumstance, other than the funeral of a close family member.“Even if you are a close family member of the deceased, we strongly recommend that you attend remotely if possible, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread to other mourners.”
However it makes the caveat that, “if after careful consideration of the risk, you choose to attend in person, it is essential that you take all of the following precautions…”
The precautions include making other mourners aware and warning them they may have to self-isolate, maintaining the 2-metre distance and wearing surgical grade face masks.
The AOIC’s executive chair Philip Spicksley has since written to his MP about the matter and is speaking to leading members of other organisations within the funeral sector who were equally as concerned.
He said: “Whilst we all appreciate how this dreadful pandemic is preventing people from being together, surely it is a case of putting the health of everyone first. This updated regulation appears to fly in the face of that.
“To say that the Government are seriously putting me and my colleagues at serious risk of harm is an understatement. It is asking all professionals in the funeral profession to ‘run the gauntlet’ with the virus.”
He added: “How does a funeral director know who has or hasn’t got the virus, how is he or her going to find out the information and in turn inform the minister or celebrant about the fact that there is someone in the congregation with the virus.”
“The question also arises whether or not the Government should be providing medical quality PPE for those, such as funeral directors and celebrants, who may have to work amongst people who may have the virus.”