Coronavirus funeral restrictions: 'Other families shouldn't have to go through this'

Bernard Lawrence pictured laughing with a pet dog Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Only 12 mourners were allowed at Bernard Lawrence's funeral in Pembrokeshire

Strict coronavirus restrictions on funerals in Wales are causing unnecessary suffering, say a family who have just been through the ordeal.

Only 12 people were allowed to attend Bernard Lawrence's funeral last week.

His granddaughter Ffion Evans said it was frustrating as many other Covid measures have been eased.

The Welsh Government has said it appreciated how "terribly difficult" it was for families, but social distancing measures must be respected.

Mr Lawrence, from Pembrokeshire, was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

The coronavirus pandemic meant treatment was postponed, and his health had deteriorated by the time he was offered it again.

The funeral of Mr Lawrence, 76, was held at Narberth crematorium, and his granddaughter says many more than a dozen mourners would have been present under normal circumstances.

"It's quite upsetting because losing someone you love is difficult anyway, but it makes the situation worse, especially since so many restrictions have changed with things like tourism and pubs," said Ms Evans.

"I think funerals are very important for families to be able to cope with the death of a loved one, especially during this time with coronavirus.

"People have been coming here from all over Britain [on holiday] but someone who was born and raised in Pembrokeshire can't even have a proper funeral."

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Bernard Lawrence, with his wife Ketricia, was diagnosed with lung cancer

Ms Evans contacted the local authority to see whether they could have any flexibility on the numbers, but was told that it was not possible.

She said she had been generally supportive of the way the Welsh Government have handled the pandemic until this point.

"But now I feel if places such as pubs, cafes and shops are reopening with a lot of people and not much social distancing, it's time to lift the restrictions on funerals too.

"I don't want other families to have to go through this."

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Ffion Evans (left) wants funeral restrictions to be eased now for other families in Wales

A Welsh Government spokesperson said that the number of people able to attend a funeral service "is set by each local authority and depends on the size of the venue".

"We appreciate how terribly difficult this is for grieving families, but we need to maintain physical distancing to reduce the spread of coronavirus."

The government added: "Whilst the increased risk to patients associated with some ongoing treatments has impacted some NHS services, we have worked closely with health boards to ensure as much cancer care can continue as possible."

In a statement Pembrokeshire County Council expressed their sympathy with the family, "and indeed with all families who have attended funerals of loved ones at Parc Gwyn Crematorium, Narberth, since the restriction on mourners has been in place".

"Unfortunately due to the size of the chapel, and in order to observe the Welsh Government's two-metre social distancing rule, we are forced to limit the number of mourners to 12.

"However, following consultation with funeral directors, we are hoping to allow - in the near future - an additional eight mourners to attend a cremation service outside the chapel while at the same time respecting social distancing."

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