Deaths and Funerals During Coronavirus

April 23, 2020

THIFF & Tower Hamlets Council have issued updated guidance (updated 15 May 2020)

Register a death

Families of those who have sadly passed away will not need to visit the registry office. Please book an appointment online for a telephone death registration.

If the death is due to the coronavirus, the borough’s pandemic multiagency response teams (PMART) will take care of the process. They will support families by arranging for their loved ones to be collected by an undertaker to take them to a funeral home or mortuary, ahead of a burial or cremation.

If you can’t book online

For those who can’t book online, our phone line is open:

  • Monday to Friday, 9.30 am to 4.30pm
  • Saturday, 9.30am to 12.30pm

Tel: 020 7364 7880

Weekend emergency burial notice service

Contact our weekend and bank holiday emergency burial notice service:

  • Saturday, 12pm to 5pm
  • Sunday, 9am to 5pm

Tel: 07946 390 834

Funeral arrangements and following religious beliefs

If someone dies in hospital

If a person dies in a hospital the procedures remain as before the pandemic and take into account the faith of the deceased.

The Chaplaincy Team at the five Barts NHS Trust hospitals includes Muslim, Jewish, Roman Catholic and Church of England/Christian chaplains. They are there to offer support.

Barts Hospital Advocacy and Interpreting Service is available. This helps to bridge communication barriers between patients, relatives and clinicians where there are challenges created by language or cultural differences.

If someone dies at home

If someone has died at home, the next of kin should ring the GP who had been looking after the deceased person or, if the death was unexpected call 111 (or in an emergency 999).

If an assessment is made that the death is due to the coronavirus, the specialist PMART team will visit and prepare the body for collection by the undertaker of the next-of-kin’s choice.

Cultural or religious rituals

It is important that family members, or religious representatives, do not use cultural or religious rituals that bring them into close contact with their loved one.  The PMART team members, and the undertaker, can help with the registration of death which takes place by telephone.

Funeral preparations

For Jewish and Muslim funeral preparations, body washing may be carried out if the undertakers have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and are trained in its use.

The choice of burial or cremation is entirely up to the next of kin and family.

Burial space

Please speak to your funeral director about options for burial space availability in cemetery of your preference.

For those requiring a short period between death and burial for religious and cultural reasons, these wishes will be respected as far as is possible.

Funeral services

Public Health England has published guidance to ensure funerals are conducted safely, consistent with social distancing principles.

Next of kin, can choose their celebrant and the service will be conducted according to their religious tradition. However, it will be shorter than usual and some rituals, such as open coffins or touching the coffin or body will not be allowed.

The government guidance says:

  • only a small group of immediate family members may attend (each cemetery and crematorium has its own limits)
  • social distancing must be observed
  • anyone with symptoms of the virus should stay at home
  • those who are self-isolating because someone in their household is ill, may attend if they do not have symptoms themselves
  • people who are extremely clinically vulnerable (shielded) may also attend with measures put in place to reduce their risk

Support towards funeral costs

Financial support is available to help low income families meet the costs of funeral expenses such as burial and funeral directors’ fees.

Support for those who have lost a loved one

You can still access to a range of bereavement services through funeral directors, hospitals, GPs and other emergency services.

Bereavement support
 Organisation  Support available
The Chaplaincy Team

Manage bereavement support for families of those who have died in hospital by phone.

  • Tel: 020 3594 2070
  • Please leave a message with contact details and a member of the team will call back.
The Barts Hospitals Bereavement Care Team

There to help families of patients who have died in the hospitals

  • Royal London: 020 3594 1050 or 020 3594 2030
  • St Bartholomew’s: 020 3465 5889 or 020 3465 6892
  • Whipps Cross: 020 3594 1050 or 020 3594 2030
  • Newham: 020 7363 8056 or 020 7363 8055
  • Nightingale: through the contact centre number given to families
 City and East London Bereavement Service (CELBS)

Tel: 020 3022 5177

  • Bereavement Counselling Service provides support to bereaved people
  • Bereavement Counselling for Couples provides support to couples after the death of a child. This would include the death of an adult child.
  • Bereavement Volunteers and Muslim visiting Service offers practical help and support to bereaved people. Sylheti speaking staff are available.
  • We have wheelchair access by arrangement.
  • Bereaved clients have to be over 18 and live in Tower Hamlets or patients, or relatives or friends of patients of Barts and The London NHS Trust
  • You can refer yourself to the service by telephoning us on 020 3022 5177. We will take some basic information from you and offer you a counselling assessment. Alternatively your GP can make a referral to us.
 Tower Hamlets Bereavement Support Group

Tel: 020 8525 3140

  •  Tower Hamlets Bereavement Support Group is a peer support group for anyone who has experienced a bereavement or loss.
  • The group provides a safe and supportive environment where people can meet others who have had similar experiences. Everyone is welcome to share their experience and learn from the experience of others. The group meets once a month on Tuesdays.
  • Activities include lunch, complimentary therapies and guest speakers.
Stepney Jewish Community Centre

Tel: 020 7790 6441


 The centre is open to anyone living in east London and the City.

Everyone is welcome, regardless of their level of religious observance, and we offer a therapeutic programme of activities for anyone who needs special care, is suffering from a bereavement or isolation.

Open from Monday to Thursday 9.30am – 4.30pm and Friday 9.30am – 1.30pm. Members are served a hot three-course kosher lunch every day and special diets can be catered for.

 Tower Hamlets Talking Therapies

Tel: 0208 475 8080

  •  Offers a range of free and confidential talking therapies and specialist self-management skills
  • Once you have been referred by your GP or you have made a self-referral, we will call you as soon as possible to verify your information. At the same time, we will book you in with one of our therapists for an initial telephone assessment.
 Sue Ryder – Palliative, neurological and bereavement support

Tel: 0808 164 4572


  •  Sue Ryder supports people through the most difficult times of their lives. Whether that’s a terminal illness, the loss of a loved one or a neurological condition – we’re there when it matters.
  • Online Community is open 24/7 and connects people with similar experiences so they can share experiences, feelings and emotional support.
  • Online Bereavement Counselling Service provides free, confidential and professional support over video chat. After an assessment to check whether our service is right for you, we offer up to six weekly sessions with one of our counsellors.
 Muslim Bereavement Support Services

Tel: 020 3468 7333


  •  We are a non-profit organisation serving the Muslim community by supporting bereaved women who have lost a loved one.
  • We also work with other organisations, the NHS and hospices in particular, to give a spiritual context to the bereavement support services they offer.
 Bereavement Advice Line

Tel: 0800 634 9494

  •  Bereavement Advice Centre is a free helpline and web-based information service.
  • We give practical information and advice and signposting on the many issues and procedures that face us after the death of someone close.
  • If you call us on 0800 634 9494, we will look for the organisation best suited to your own individual circumstances.
 Cruse Bereavement Care

Tel: 020 8850 0505 or 0808 808 1677


  •  Cruse Bereavement Care is a national charity that provides advice, information and support to anyone who has experienced bereavement (children, young people and adults), whenever or however the death occurred.
 Hope again (Cruse bereavement)

Tel: 0808 808 1677

  •  Aimed at children and young people experiencing bereavement.
 The Loss Foundation

Tel: 0300 200 4112

  •  The Loss Foundation is a registered charity providing support to people who have lost loved ones to cancer; spouses, family members, friends. Our charity offers in-person support in London and Oxford in the form of bereavement support groups and other supportive social events. We also provide an array of bereavement information on our website to support those that fall out of our support group catchment area.

Tel: 01708 765200


  •  Provides emotional support and details of agencies, support groups, helplines and counsellors throughout the UK.
 Bereavement Trust

Tel: 0800 435 455

  •  Support for anyone who has been bereaved.

Tel: 116 123

  •  You can get in touch about anything that’s troubling you, no matter how large or small the issue feels.
 Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum


  •  Sometimes when we are grieving, we have questions about faith and God. It can help to talk to a specific faith/belief leader, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist for example. The THIFF gives a list of all the places of worship including Churches and clergy and faith leaders who can be contacted through these should you wish to chat about questions you have around grief and faith.


There is ongoing discussion with funeral directors and other key partners, including at regular borough and London-wide multi-agency group meetings on capacity issues.

Government advice has been clear that numbers attending funerals will need to be severely restricted and funeral directors are making this clear to families as a crucial public health issue, but this does also help to manage some capacity management concerns too.

Despite the extra pressures being faced, ensuring that those who have passed away are treated with care and compassion remains a top priority, as does supporting families through such a difficult time.

National representatives from the Muslim and Jewish faiths took part in establishing Public Health England (PHE) guidance that recognises the need to respect the funeral practices and rites of all faith communities.

The council welcomes this reassurance and the work taking place with faith groups to ensure that all needs are met in relation to burials where possible. Additional advice by PHE is being given to local faith funeral directors to ensure that all rites are protected within current government guidelines, where they can be carried out safely, for example with the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Like a number of London boroughs, Tower Hamlets does not have burial or crematorium facilities within the borough. This has been the case for several decades and is not a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, funeral directors will continue to support families who have lost a relative to discuss the various options including available locations for the funeral of their loved ones.

In additional to a number of locations across London, Tower Hamlets residents do have the opportunity to use Kemnal Park cemetery, where the council has a number of burial spaces available with the option for additional plots if needed.


All funeral services are being carried out following Public Health England (PHE) advice, whereby the number of mourner’s present are strictly limited and people that should be self isolating are unfortunately required to stay away from the funeral.

We know this will be upsetting for some people unable to attend funerals but recognise the very serious public health need for these measures to be in place. New advice for safe funerals after discussions with faith leaders