A council that was criticized for banning all mourners at its crematorium says it will now let relatives attend outside the building.
City of York council said last week it was following other local authorities and stopping all funeral services at cremations – a move that York Central MP Rachael Maskell said “was a step too far” and a possible breach of the UN declaration of human rights.
On Saturday evening, the council changed its policy and said in a statement: “Following the announcement of unattended cremations, faith groups and the council have confirmed that they will offer a faith officiant present at the crematorium to undertake the committal of the body according to the appropriate religious rites, and that celebrants or a minister can read your words during the private cremation and that this will be recorded for families.
“The immediate family may wish to attend York crematorium, remaining outside to pay their respects, similarly at Fulford cemetery, whilst following official social distancing guidelines.”
The council confirmed that “in all cases no mourners can be present inside the crematorium”.
Maskell said on Twitter: “York’s reissued crematorium policy does not go far enough. I can’t understand why they are making this so hard for distraught families. It is going to have to change again. ”
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Sir Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust, said it was possible the UK could end up with the worst coronavirus death rate in Europe.
Sir Farrer, who is a member of the Sage committee, which advises the government on the pandemic, said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show:
The numbers in the UK have continued to go up. I do hope we’re coming close to the number of new infections reducing … and the number of deaths plateauing and starting to come down.
And yes, the UK is likely to be certainly one of the worst, if not the worst affected country in Europe.
He said continuing testing in the community would “buy you time” to deal with the crisis, giving an additional six to eight weeks to ensure health systems were up to capacity.
“Undoubtedly there are lessons to learn from that,” Sir Jeremy said.
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The shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, has said the Labor party will support any necessary extension of the lockdown, but said more support needs to be put in place to help people through it.
“If the lockdown has to continue, then of course we’ll support it,” she said this morning on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
She joined the Labor leader, Sir Keir Starmer, in saying the government needs to set out its lockdown exit strategy.
“You need to be open and transparent with the public so they understand why they’re being asked to do the things they are, and so they can see some light at the end of the tunnel,” Nandy said.
She also called on the government to name an interim foreign secretary replacement while Dominic Raab deputises for prime minister Boris Johnson as he recovers from Covid – 28 in hospital.
She also said that, while the crisis was unprecedented, the government was slow to act in some respects.
To be fair to the government, this is quite unprecedented for Britain, and we’re a country that has always taken civil liberties very seriously. These are big measures the government has taken over the past couple of weeks, and not a foreseeable crisis.
But it is also right to acknowledge that in some areas we haven’t been able to act quickly enough. Some of it is because it was unprecedented, but some of it is because we were in quite a weakened state as a country.
When we come out the other side of this … I think we do really need to reflect on how we need to change as a country. We should never again be in a position where our public services don’t have the resilience they need to respond, and where families are only one step away from financial collapse.
Updated at 9. am BST
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