A TOUGH Covid rule that limited the number of mourners allowed at a funeral to 30 will be lifted in England on May 17 – a month earlier than planned.
It will be welcome news to grieving families after the issue was thrown back into the limelight last month when the Queen was forced to sit alone at Prince Philip's funeral.
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Rather than having a strict limit, the capacity will be determined by how many people places of worship or funeral homes can safely have inside while mourners are social distancing.
It means that some places will allow "significantly" more than just 30 people to attend.
In the worst and hardest days of the crisis, many grieving families were forced to watch funerals from home over live-streams.
Just over a year ago, the funeral of 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, of Brixton in London, took place without any members of his family present.
QUEEN SAT ALONE AT DUKE'S FUNERAL
The tragic teen is one of the youngest Brits to have died of Covid.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: "The British people have made huge sacrifices throughout the pandemic to protect the NHS and save lives, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the deeply painful restrictions on the numbers attending funerals.
"Losing a loved one has been incredibly hard during the pandemic and I am pleased we are now in a position, thanks to everyone's continued efforts and the rollout of the vaccine, to remove these limits and allow more friends and family to come together and pay their respects.
"I look forward to working with faith leaders responsible for places of worship, and those who manage venues such as funeral homes, to introduce the new arrangements in a way that continues to keep people safe."
The move was welcomed by the National Association of Funeral Directors' chief executive Jon Levett, who said: "Throughout the pandemic the Government has made sure immediate families were able to be there to say goodbye to a loved one and this has always been valued.
"But it's critical that all those who are grieving are not forgotten in the reopening of society – and for many families, the current restrictions have meant telling people very close to the person that has died that they simply couldn't be there.
"We'd still also like to see the Government move forward with its plan to trust the public to make informed, personal decisions about social contact – using testing as a safety mechanism – enabling us all to offer the simple comfort of holding hands, or giving a much-needed hug, to those who are isolated in their grief."
However, the same changes won't apply to weddings – yet.
Currently, just 15 people are allowed to celebrate at a wedding.
That will change from May 17, when up to 30 people will be allowed to attend weddings, as well as receptions, wakes, christenings and bar mitzvahs.
In Scotland, up to 50 people can go to a funeral, with plans to extend that to 100 from 7 June.
Neither Wales nor Northern Ireland has a limit on numbers, but venues can set restrictions.
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