Fears over breaks in social distancing keeping funeral numbers limited

Concerns that mourners might abandon social distancing so they can console each other at funerals are limiting the numbers at services, the Scottish Government said yesterday.

Cabinet Secretary Mike Russell told MSPs “a degree of emotionalism” was inevitable at funerals, and revealed there had been “regrettable instances” of social distancing breaking down, as he quizzed on why up to 50 people could now attend regular church services but not family funerals.

Appearing before Holyrood’s Covid-19 Committee Mr Russell was asked by Scottish Conservative Adam Tomkins why funerals were still limited to 20 people, describing the restriction as “arbitrary, whimsical and unfair”.

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However Mr Russell said there were concerns social distancing would break down given the emotional nature of such events. He said faith communities had been consulted when the guidance was drawn up and disputed a suggestion that the human rights of individuals to “manifest their faith” were under threat.

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said the public would “struggle to understand” why someone could attend a service with 49 others on a Sunday but funerals were limited. Mr Russell said: “There is a degree of emotionalism, inevitably, at funerals which may lead to a break down, of some sort, in social distancing. We have actually seen this in regrettable instances.” He said he understood it was “difficult to accept” but argued it was justified on public health grounds.

Professor Tomkins also asked for an explanation as why it was “coherent” for pubs to be open before gyms, and if compensation would be available for gym owners.

Mr Russell said a judgement had been made on a “complex jigsaw of activities” and the reuse of gym equipment could contribute to the spread of the virus and that was “more risky” than sitting at a table two metres apart. He added: “I have nothing to announce or say today about compensation in any sector. But of course these things are under review.”



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