MOURNERS, clergy and officiants are to be barred from attending funeral services at York Crematorium from tomorrow because of the coronavirus crisis.

Funeral services that have already been booked at the crematorium in Bishopthorpe will become 'direct cremations,' with no mourners and no services.

City of York Council said it had had to make the 'very difficult and sad' decision to cease all funeral services at the crematorium with immediate effect from tomorrow, although cremations will continue as planned.

A spokeswoman said a number of precautions had already been taken to reduce the risk to members of the public and staff.

"However, in light of new stricter and clearer government guidance relating to social distancing at funerals, we have had to make today’s difficult decision," she said.

"The council is taking into account the risks of infection spread outside of hospital settings and therefore, has to ensure that the health and well-being of everyone is protected, including the public, crematorium staff and partners, such as funeral directors."

Sharon Stolz, director of public health, said it had been one of the most difficult decisions the council had had to make.

"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," she said.

“We’re living in unprecedented times and as such, we have to ensure we’re doing everything we can to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus and sadly, that includes attending funeral services.

“With the number of infections and deaths rising, and ahead of the predicted peak period of infection, we must put these new measures in place now to protect our most vulnerable.

"This is why we’ve consulted at length with funeral directors in York and have collectively determined that it’s sadly in the best interests of everyone if we cease all funeral services."

She said the council was exploring all other possibilities such as holding services of remembrance at a later date when Government restrictions have been lifted.

"We will provide a short video within the chapel free of charge for those services that have been booked, and we are seeking support from other faith agencies across the city too," she said.

"We are aware that many families have already made plans and we wanted to ensure they have to make alternative arrangements balanced with taking swift action to save lives.

“We are continuing to monitor all of the guidance regarding coronavirus very closely, to ensure that the health and well-being everyone is protected. 

"We have updated funeral directors regarding these latest changes, and will continue to keep the public fully informed of any further service changes.”

The daughter of a York pensioner whose funeral service had been due to take place next week said she was 'devastated' she could no longer attend it.

Joy Carter said she was at the bedside of her father, Robert Henry Darbyshire, 92, of Osbaldwick, when he passed away because of Alzheimer's.

"I gave up paid employment to care for him before he needed nursing care," she said.

"His passing at times was painful and for me not to say goodbye at peace, comfort and reassurance is just devastating."

She said people could go to supermarkets, and non-essential workers in construction who could not adhere to the 2-metre distancing rules were still able to work but she could not attend her father's funeral even if it was just her and the celebrant.

Funeral director Chris Fielder, of J G Fielder & Son, said: “It’s disappointing that this decision has had to be taken, though we have been aware it was a possibility for some time, and understand why the decision has been made.

"We are in the process of contacting families affected by the change and discussing the options available to them, which include the use of our service chapel for up to five mourners, or holding a small service with the hearse and minister or celebrant outside the family home.

"We encourage families to consider holding memorial services at a later date, and our services are on offer to assist with this.”

*Are you directly affected by the decision to stop funeral services at York Crematorium? If so, do you support or oppose the decision? Email