York & North Yorkshire

Coronavirus: York Crematorium stops funeral services

Sue Crosby
Image caption Mrs Crosby said her family understood and had adhered to the guidelines but found the council's decision very hard to understand

Families say they have been left "devastated" by the decision to stop funeral services at a crematorium during the coronavirus outbreak.

One family found out relatives would not be able to attend York Crematorium the day before the service.

The city council said it had been a "very difficult" decision to end services at the crematorium.

It said booked cremations would continue and a short video from within the chapel would be provided.

'Deeply damaging'

Government guidelines state that funerals can still be held but should be limited to as few immediate family members as possible.

David Heywood, from Manchester, said his family only found out on Wednesday that the funeral for his partner's mother's would not go ahead in York on Thursday as planned.

"I don't see how ten people going to a funeral who are observing social distancing would matter," he said.

He added the cremation was still going ahead without any family member present.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Cremations will continue but with no mourners and no celebrant

Sue Crosby was initially told she would be limited to 10 mourners at the service for her mother Rita Pickering, who died on 2 April.

But she was later told by the funeral director, who has made alternative arrangements for them at a chapel, the family would be allowed no mourners at the crematorium.

"It's absolutely devastating to know that our beautiful mum and treasured grandmother would be in the crematorium on her own, with a total stranger and just one song," she said.

Sharon Stoltz, York's director of public health, said the authority had to ensure it was doing all it could to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus and had determined it was the correct decision.

"At a time when family and friends are the most important part of our lives, we know this is going to be really difficult for many people who have lost their loved ones."

Rachael Maskell, the Labour MP for York Central, said she has been contacted by a number of families and called on the council to change its policy.

"To stop close family members being able to say goodbye to a child, a parent or partner is completely insensitive and deeply damaging."

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