Police called to crowds at funerals during height of pandemic

A report revealed that 'on a few occasions', large numbers of mourners gathered despite restrictions.

Police called to crowds at funerals during height of pandemic iStock

Police had to be called to funerals in Scotland “on a few occasions” when large numbers of mourners gathered outside despite Covid-19 restrictions, it has emerged.

A report for the Scottish Government revealed this was an issue when coronavirus regulations limited the number of people who could be present at funerals to 20.

Despite this, “large attendances outside crematoria during funerals remained an issue”, a report by Robert Swanson, the senior inspector of burial, cremation and funeral directors noted.

His report added that “assistance was requested by some crematorium staff on a few occasions from Police Scotland”.

The annual report, which actually covers the period from April 2020 to September 2021, went on to note that it was “difficult to obtain” details of all those gathered outside crematoria for contact tracing purposes.

There were also “practical issues” with this when the number of people permitted to be at ceremonies was increased.

While there was “total compliance across the sector” with mandatory restrictions, the report noted there were “variations” in how advisory guidelines were applied – with the differences resulting in some crematoria being more popular than others.

It stated that “concern was also raised by a number of cremation authorities over neighbouring crematoria having different levels of restrictions in place”.

The report continued: “Funeral Directors were often asked by families as to what was, and what was not, allowed at neighbouring crematoria. This did result in certain crematoria being much busier than others.”

But the report also noted that live streaming of services was able to be achieved at “almost all crematoria” during the coronavirus pandemic “despite a number of issues around signal strength in remote areas”.

While most organisations working in the funeral sector had contingencies in place for dealing with “unexpected demand”, the challenges that were faced during Covid-19 “were not only the number of excess deaths, but dealing with these during an ongoing pandemic with all the necessary precautions and restrictions imposed by legislation or guidelines”.

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