Five people who attended funeral ‘street party’ caught coronavirus and died
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Five people who attended a "street party" funeral caught coronavirus and died,.
They attended a huge memorial gathering before later dying with Covid themselves, according to Paul Lankester, assistant director of regulation and enforcement in Birmingham, where the tragedy unfolded.
The "street party" took place in the city, Birmingham Live reports.
Mr Lankester spoke at a virtual meeting with Birmingham mosque leaders on November 9, also attended by the council's Director of Public Health Justin Varney.
He also told how, in a separate incident, mourners had tried to break into a locked cemetery to attend a burial – expected to attract a crowd of 200.
The online meeting also heard that the Government was now allowing people with Covid to attend funerals of close family – a decision Mr Lankester called "absolutely appalling".
Paul Lankester, Birmingham Council leader
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Current government rules state no more than 30 people are allowed to attend a funeral, indoors or outdoors, with up to 15 permitted at memorial events.
Birmingham City Council has offered advice and guidance to families and funeral directors in an effort to help grieving loved ones say farewell in a safe way during the pandemic.
But Mr Lankester raised issues about some funeral directors and some of the services.
He told the meeting: "We've heard anecdotally that there was a rather large gathering in one funeral, it was a street, almost a street party type thing to celebrate the life of someone.
"We've heard that five people who attended that got Covid and passed away."
The council boss also highlighted how in an unrelated incident legal action was underway against one funeral director who had flouted the strict rules on attendances.
A temporary mortuary was erected in the car park of Central Jamia Mosque Ghamkol Sharif in Birmingham
(Image: Getty Images)
"We've had a very serious incident in the last fortnight where we have taken action against a funeral director," he said in the meeting.
"I'm not going to say where, when, how, who, what faith was involved. But at that funeral there were upwards of 300 people at the cemetery and they then actually created bedlam within a local area because we just couldn't manage it, we weren't aware of it.
"So the action we are taking is legal action… if you organise an illegal gathering above that 30 (people) you could be subject to a penalty notice."
He told the meeting: "All I want to say is that we are working our hardest to try to ensure that infections and deaths are kept to a minimum and we need your support and help in doing that."
Mr Lankester also spoke about some funerals attracting crowds following announcements on social media – which led to one funeral being stopped.
"I'm aware of all sorts of things that can go on social media, details of what's happening – we've had that in the last week," he said.
"We actually quite successfully controlled a funeral that had potentially a couple of hundred people there.
"When they realised that people were going to do it (be let in), we had bolts, padlocks cut at the funeral, at a burial at a cemetery.
"People were just breaking in, but what we did was we stopped them, we escorted them and the funeral stopped.
"And I think that's very disrespectful to both the deceased and the bereaved."
He added: "I think we are in a situation now to allow people with Covid to attend (funerals) if they've lost a close family member. I think it's putting more on funeral directors and the like to do things and to control what's going on.
"If you've taken all reasonable action there will be no action taken against you, I can assure you of that.
"But we are in a situation now where we are seeing increased deaths due to Covid, as a consequence of that we've all got to be as vigilant as possible."
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One mosque member questioned the issue of the Government not banning someone with Covid from attending a funeral of a family member as long as they are fully socially distanced. The rules discourage a Covid sufferer from attending, but allow it.
Mr Lankester said: "I find it absolutely appalling that it has been allowed and I have made representations.
"I'm in a national group looking at enforcement and compliance and looking at these things and I've had four or five extensive emails saying that this should not happen, this is posing risk."
No details of any of the funerals involved were released by the council officials.