The limit on the number of mourners who can attend funerals is to be lifted in England, the Government has announced.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) on Monday said that the legal limit of 30 mourners will be removed as part of the next stage of lockdown easing, expected on May 17.
Instead the capacity will be determined by how many people venues, such as places of worship or funeral homes, can safely accommodate while maintaining social distancing, the department added.
This includes both indoor and outdoor venues and all organisers must continue to be Covid-secure and follow social distancing rules, it said.
While venue capacities will vary, many will allow “significantly” more than 30 people to attend, the MHCLG said.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “The British people have made huge sacrifices throughout the pandemic to protect the NHS and save lives, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the deeply painful restrictions on the numbers attending funerals.
“Losing a loved one has been incredibly hard during the pandemic and I am pleased we are now in a position, thanks to everyone’s continued efforts and the rollout of the vaccine, to remove these limits and allow more friends and family to come together and pay their respects.
“I look forward to working with faith leaders responsible for places of worship, and those who manage venues such as funeral homes, to introduce the new arrangements in a way that continues to keep people safe.”
The move was welcomed by the National Association of Funeral Directors’ (NAFD) chief executive Jon Levett, who said: “Throughout the pandemic the Government has made sure immediate families were able to be there to say goodbye to a loved one and this has always been valued.
“But it’s critical that all those who are grieving are not forgotten in the reopening of society – and for many families, the current restrictions have meant telling people very close to the person that has died that they simply couldn’t be there.
“We’d still also like to see the Government move forward with its plan to trust the public to make informed, personal decisions about social contact – using testing as a safety mechanism – enabling us all to offer the simple comfort of holding hands, or giving a much-needed hug, to those who are isolated in their grief.”
The department said that limits for other life or commemorative events are expected to remain as set out in the road map.
Under Step 3 of the road map, from no earlier than May 17 up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as other types of significant life events, including bar mitzvahs and christenings.
Most social contact rules outside will also be lifted, although gatherings of more than 30 people will remain illegal.
Indoors, the rule of six or two households will apply, although the Government has said it will keep under review whether it is safe to increase this.
Indoor hospitality, entertainment venues such as cinemas and soft play areas, the rest of the accommodation sector, and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will also reopen.
Limited crowds will also be allowed at sporting events and foreign holidays could be permitted for people living in England.
All remaining restrictions on social contact could be lifted from June 21, allowing for larger events to go ahead and nightclubs to reopen.