The government should ban funerals during the coronavirus pandemic because a “lack of clear instruction” is causing “anguish and suffering beyond imagination”, the Good Funeral Guide has said.
Fran Hall, director and chief executive of the not-for-profit organisation, which offers funeral advice, said allowing the ceremonies to continue was putting the health of bereaved people at risk.
The measures prohibited all social events, including weddings and baptisms, but allowed funerals.
However families are being asked to consider restricting attendance at funerals to “close family members”.
Ms Hall said “confusion” over how the ceremonies are held is “breaking people’s hearts”.
“With the heaviest of hearts, today we are going against everything that the Good Funeral Guide has become known for over the years, and calling for funerals to be stopped completely,” she said.
“Now. Today. Just stop.
“The decision to exempt funerals from the current ban on social gatherings was undoubtedly made for compassionate reasons, but the current lack of clear instruction and direction is leading to anguish and suffering beyond imagination.”
In a blog post, Ms Hall wrote that bereaved people and those supporting them are “risking their health and even their lives” by gathering for funerals.
She added: “This cannot continue. It’s breaking people’s hearts, hurting family members and friends. It’s confusing everyone.
“It’s putting lives at risk. It’s making everything impossible for people who are already reeling from shock and grief. Heartbreaking decisions are being asked of people – decisions which are too much to bear.
“The current situation is not compassionate or kind, it’s devastating and destructive.”
Ms Hall said funeral companies are interpreting the lockdown rules in different ways, meaning the amount of mourners who can attend services varies in different parts of the country.
Ms Hall said one crematorium even stated that chapel doors would be locked and the police called if too many people turned up.
She added that “unattended burial or cremations are the safest, kindest, simplest way to deal with our dead right now”.
“Funerals, as we know them, can’t go on,” Ms Hall said.
University of Huddersfield academics have said death and bereavement services will “highly likely” be overwhelmed even if just 1% of people who contract COVID-19 die.
The researchers added that limited cemetery space could be a major problem, with the possibility of mass graves.
The number of people confirmed to have died from the coronavirus in the UK rose to 769 on Friday.
Meanwhile, a temporary mortuary site that will be able to hold up to 12,000 bodies is being built at Birmingham Airport in preparation for an expected rise in coronavirus deaths.
The National Association of Funeral Directors said earlier this month that funerals could be streamed online if the coronavirus outbreak became a pandemic.