• Savannah Mayo

Sheffield City Council Muslim Funerals & Burials (Coronavirus - COVID-19) 8th April 2020

Written by Sheffield City Council Bereavement Services and the Office for the Director of Public Health Please note that this was the most recent guidance when prepared although might not be the most recent at time of reading. Please always refer to the Public Health England government website for the most up to date information. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-list-of-guidance

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 is effective from Wednesday March 25th 2020.

 As a local authority, we are taking a highly precautionary approach to trying to control what we can control in terms of epidemic spread and have taken this very difficult decision after much thought and detailed consideration of the Government guidance as advised by our 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 (over70) 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. You can find the list of vulnerable groups and the list of extremely vulnerable groups who should practice shielding

 Unless it is for a specific reason, at this moment of national emergency, it is vital that we all stay at home, protect our 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. When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people in our family and community we reduce the spread of the infection and onward transmission of the virus.

Guidance on social distancing can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-awayfrom-others/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others

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  You should still contact the Funeral Director as soon as possible about the death and burial so they can start preparations and timetable you into their schedule. Inform them you are looking for a short notice burial according to Islamic tradition and in the Muslim section of the cemetery Contacting Your Local Mosque  Until further notice your local mosque cannot be used for the funeral service. This can only take place at the grave side for a maximum of 5 immediate family members only. 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 https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/birthsdeaths-marriages/register-death

 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 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.

 Unfortunately SCC cannot supply PPE from either the council or the NHS – this resource is stretched and already allocated to secondary, primary and social care as appropriate.  HSE guidance “Managing infection risks when handling the deceased” https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg283.htm

 PPE guidance from The Royal College of Pathologists https://www.rcpath.org/uploads/assets/0b7d77fa-b385-4c60b47dde930477494b/G200-TBPs-Guidance-for-care-of-deceased-during-COVID-19pandemic.pdf

 Guidance for the donning and doffing of PPE equipment https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-infectionprevention-and-control#anchor

Cemetery Protocols and Procedures Please follow these protocols and procedures to ensure a consistent approach is used throughout. This will 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 meters 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 1. SCC Coronavirus information page: http://www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/your-citycouncil/coronavirus

2. https://www.sheffaithcomm.co.uk/ Advice for COVID-19 This website is dedicated resource and information for faith communities in Sheffield and surrounding areas. Please use this website to get updated information from your faith communities and further information from Public health that may help you

3. The Sheffield Faith Sector lead who will coordinate the faith communities response to how they will care for those who have died from coronavirus, can be emailed at enqueries@sheffaithcomm.co.uk

4. NHS advice for everyone on Coronavirus https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronaviruscovid-19/ 5. Stay at home Government guidance for households with possible Coronavirus https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-athome-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection

6. The Government guidance for caring for the deceased can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-care-of-thedeceased/guidance-for-care-of-the-deceased-with-suspected-or-confirmedcoronavirus-covid-19

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