Registering a death during coronavirus pandemic

What to do when someone dies

  • If your loved one dies in a hospital, the hospital’s Bereavement Services team will help you through the process and advise you on what needs to be done.  
  • Deaths which happen at home or elsewhere in the community should be reported to the police or other emergency services such as 999 or NHS 111 during the pandemic. A Pandemic Multi-agency Response Team (PMART) has been introduced as part of London’s overall response to the pandemic and to respond in particular to COVID-19 deaths not in a hospital. The aim of PMART is to enable key frontline services to focus on emergency cases. It will provide a response to deaths in the community, maintaining dignity for the deceased.  
  • Where a death was expected and the deceased had been under medical care, this should continue to be reported to the person’s GP in the usual way.
  • The registrar for the district in which the death occurred will arrange to register the death by telephone once the Medical Cause of Death Certificate from the GP, Hospital Doctor or PMART Hub Doctor is received
  • The green form for burial or cremation will then be sent to your Funeral Director or chosen cemetery or crematorium so that the funeral arrangements can be made

Public access to cemeteries and crematoria

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 26 March 2020. The Regulations were made in response to the serious threat to public health posed by the spread of coronavirus. Under the regulations and powers conferred by the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, cemeteries which have a crematorium will close to the public during the emergency period, allowing access for funeral services only.

Unless otherwise directed by Government, the borough’s cemeteries which do not have a crematorium on site will remain open. The principal function of our Cemeteries Service is the provision of funerals, and to deliver services with care, dignity and sensitivity. We recognise the importance of access to open spaces for exercise during the pandemic, but expect members of the public who use our cemeteries to behave appropriately and respectfully. Group gatherings will not be permitted.

Funeral services

The death of a loved one at any time can be a challenging and distressing experience for family and friends. In the event of a sudden and unexpected loss due to COVID-19, the impact of the loss can be even greater. Very sadly, some families may not have had the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones before they died. The observance of other practices and traditions which normally occur after someone has died may also be affected.

We are working to ensure that processes remain as dignified, respectful and supportive as they can be. They include how the death is registered, restrictions to access to the person who has died, changes to the location of mortuary facilities, and transportation from the place of death to the site of burial or cremation.

During the pandemic funerals may be attended by immediate family only and a maximum of ten people, with social distancing observed. Friends or relatives who are themselves unwell or self-isolating must not attend and those who are 'at risk' are strongly advised not to. We recognise the challenges this presents to bereaved families and friends wishing to attend the funerals of loved ones and comfort each other in close proximity. For the duration of the pandemic it will sadly not be possible to hold a chapel service or lay multiple floral tributes and wreaths, but a short graveside service is permitted.

We are working hard with faith leaders, representatives of the professional funeral sector and others to offer support and to ensure that, wherever possible, family wishes will be acknowledged and respected. With an increasing number of deaths, our ability to carry out faith burials within 24 hours is likely to be impacted. Practices around viewing and washing the deceased may also be restricted depending on the circumstances; your Funeral Director will advise you. It is hoped that families will continue to be able to determine whether the deceased should be buried or cremated in accordance with the wishes of that individual.