Funerals of coronavirus victims cannot be put on hold until restrictions lifted

PUBLISHED: 16:25 08 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:50 08 April 2020

Tom McCabe, head of paid service at Norfolk County Council. Picture: Ian Burt

Tom McCabe, head of paid service at Norfolk County Council. Picture: Ian Burt

Families who lose loved ones in Norfolk during the coronavirus pandemic are facing the difficult prospect of not being able to arrange the type of funerals they would hold at other times.

And council bosses have warned, with a rise in Norfolk deaths anticipated in the next few weeks, people will not be able to wait until restrictions are lifted for burials or cremations to happen.

That is because the county’s mortuaries, crematoriums and funeral directors might not have the capacity to cope, should deaths rise as sharply as models suggest.

Moves are under way to create a temporary mortuary in the county, but bereaved families are being asked to help ease the pressure on the system - and not hope they can wait until later to hold a funeral.

Tom McCabe, head of paid service at Norfolk County Council, said: “We would encourage Norfolk residents to contact the registrars and they have to do that within five days of the death.

“We are asking them to do that as swiftly as possible, to help them get through what at any time is difficult, but is more so now with the restrictions in place.

“Together with people’s funeral directors, we will help them through a difficult time.

“There have been changes in the way deaths are registered and people are able to do that by telephoning 0344 800 8020, rather than going to an office.

“But, with the social distancing rules, people will not be able to have what we would term traditional funerals, with many family and friends in attendance.

“That is something we have to accept. It is not easy, but these are not normal times, it is a national emergency. Our advice is to work with funeral directors to make arrangements for loved ones and then consider a subsequent memorial service when the restrictions are lifted.”

Mr McCabe said he appreciated how it would be difficult, but said: “Unfortunately, one of the things we are seeing, over the course of the days, is that the number of people succumbing to Covid-19 is on the rise and we think that will continue over the next two to three weeks.

“People have to realise that will put pressure on the capacity in mortuaries. That is why we are asking people to register deaths and work with funeral directors on arrangements as soon as possible, so loved ones can be treated with the dignity they deserve.”

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