FUNERAL services are to be allowed inside York Crematorium again - but not until Monday June 1.

City of York Council announced last night that following the Government’s announcement that the UK is now entering Phase 2 of the Coronavirus emergency, mourners will be able to attend services in the chapel again whilst respecting social distancing measures.

Up to ten close family members will be allowed in the main chapel and five in the small chapel.

The authority's decision to ban mourners and services last month sparked a furore, with thousands signing a petition calling for the ban to be reversed and York Central MP Rachael Maskell strongly criticising the authority, saying she had been contacted by many people 'distraught' at the ban.

The council then announced it would allow services to take place in the grounds under a gazebo to provide shelter.

A spokeswoman said tonight that the initial decision to place restrictions on indoor services, although 'incredibly difficult,' was taken in light of the increasing number of Covid-19 related deaths and to protect the health and safety of bereaved families, funeral directors and staff at the Crematorium.

"Close family members have been able to still hold services in a covered facility in the crematorium grounds, immediately outside the building," she said.

"In order to take the decision to reopen the chapel at the Crematorium, three tests have been established to allow inside funeral services to resume. These tests are:

• The availability of key worker testing;

• The provision of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE);

• A decrease in the number of Coronavirus infections and deaths.

"By establishing these tests, the council has been able to monitor and identify the most appropriate time to resume services inside the chapel.

"The national key worker testing scheme to protect the Crematorium team, and additional PPE provision, are now in place.

"The crematorium team is also modifying, where necessary, the layout of services and new cleaning regimes will be undertaken to ensure all the requirements of the national guidance are met for social distancing and hygiene.

"It is anticipated that by 1 June, the transmission (R) rates will fall, along with a reduction in death rates, although the number of funerals sadly currently remain high.

"If this proves not to be the case and the three tests are not met, the council may have to consider adjusting the number of bookings that are taken, or reintroducing some restrictions, in order to reduce the risk to bereaved families, funeral directors and crematorium staff.

"Once the restrictions have lifted, the council will ensure that services of remembrance at York Crematorium will be offered to all families and a city-wide multi-faith remembrance ceremony will be held, supported by local faith leaders and the Council.

"York Minster has confirmed that a special memorial service to comfort relatives and friends bereaved during the Coronavirus pandemic will take place at the Minster later in the year."

Councillor Nigel Ayre, executive member for finance and performance, thanked everyone for their 'patience and understanding.'

He said: “The decision to change services at the Crematorium was the most difficult decision we have had to take and we fully understand the distress this has caused. However, our utmost priority is to maintain the safety of residents and our staff.

“With key worker testing, additional PPE available and the rate of transmission expected to decline, we are planning to safely allow people into the chapel from 1 June and are putting in place steps to protect mourners, including cleaning between services and introducing a one-way system.

“We know the importance of saying goodbye to loved ones and we have been doing all we can to support bereaved families, celebrants and funeral directors at this incredibly difficult time.

"Families will be offered a service of remembrance at the crematorium, once restrictions have lifted, and a city wide multi-faith remembrance ceremony will be held, supported by local faith leaders and the council.”