No more than five loved ones allowed at coronavirus victim's funeral

Funeral of an elderly man who was one of Britain’s first coronavirus victims will be held in Greenwich this week with no more than five family allowed to attend to reduce risk of infections

  • The pensioner died last weekend after battling the killer disease in hospital
  • W. Uden and Sons, in south east London, is trying to prevent mass gatherings
  • Rules for those attending include washing hands and disposing of used tissues
  • A live-streaming service is also available for those grieving in self-isolation
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

The funeral of one of the UK’s first coronavirus victims is to be held this week – but no more than five family members will be there to reduce the risk of further infection.

The elderly man, who has not been named, died last weekend and meticulous measures are being carried out for the ceremony in Greenwich, south east London, according to undertakers. 

W. Uden and Sons says it has restricted services to the very closest loved ones in order to adhere to government guidelines of preventing mass gatherings of more than 100 people. 

Funeral director Matthew Uden, 35, said: ‘It’s much more difficult to organise with all that’s going on. We have been advised to be very cautious.

A funeral service, pictured, is being held for one of the UK’s first coronavirus victims this week – but no more than five family members will be there to reduce the risk of further infection

‘The person we collected yesterday was in a body bag beforehand and we were wearing masks and protective suits to bring them back to the morgue.

‘There’s only going to be four or five very close immediate family members at the very small funeral. 

‘They are absolutely fine with that and decided it between themselves before they contacted us.

‘The loss of a loved one is never easy and putting restrictions upon a family that is already grieving is not something that we want to do.

‘They have coped really well and it is nice to see that this family has understood the unprecedented situation they and everyone else finds themselves in.

‘The family were told they can’t see their loved one again but they were able to say goodbye at the hospital.’

Mourners who can’t attend will be offered a live-stream service so they can grieve remotely from the safety of self-isolation.

Meanwhile, anyone physically attending a funeral must wash their hands before entering the venue, used tissues need to be disposed of safely and staff have been told to refrain from physical contact with mourners.

Grieving families looking to arrange a funeral must now call instead of popping into one of the company’s seven offices and give the cause of death before being brought to the mortuary.

W. Uden and Sons, pictured, in Eltham, south east London, has enforced new measures as part of efforts to prevent mass gatherings

Mr Uden’s firm, which is based in south east London and Kent and has served families since 1881, has experienced a dramatic increase in calls as the pandemic continues to sweep Britain.

Cleaning regimes having increased across the board to prevent the spread of the virus and mourners are regularly encouraged to follow NHS guidance.

Mr Uden, who has worked at the family business for 20 years and been involved his whole life, added: ‘They are in a really tricky situation. Even the experts don’t really know what the right procedure is. 

‘I’ve never seen anything like this in my time as a funeral director.

‘People are saying we are in the right business but that is absolutely not correct. We are on the front line and have got to be there for people as they’re not going to stop dying.

Mourners who attend the service will be urged to wash their hands, and follow other NHS guidance, such as this posted, pictured at Manchester Victoria station

‘Already I am telling families that only close family and friends can come to funerals and already in the past week, there has been declining numbers in people attending. The less people that turn up the better really.

‘The Church of England has already decided they are not doing church services so we have had to cancel those.

‘People are being encouraged to arrange funerals over the phone instead of coming in to the office because the least contact we can have the better but we still want to give them the best send-off possible.

‘We are making sure we are doing all we can and visually show that to reassure the public. 

‘Everything is regularly cleaned and we’ve got anti-bacterial wipes in all the offices and cars. 

London landmarks such as Trafalgar Square, pictured, have been seen deserted this week following government advice for people to stay at home

‘We need to have extra measures to keep our staff safe and protect the families that we are caring for.

‘We are normally a busy family-run business but we are experiencing an increase in volume of phone calls from family members asking whether their funerals will be going ahead and whether they should take any additional precautions, and indeed whether they should limit the number of mourners in attendance.

‘During this week alone we are looking after more than 45 funerals, only one of those is a death from coronavirus. 

‘People do not stop dying and we need to keep helping our community.’

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