Travellers flout social distancing rules as crowds flock to funeral

Travellers flout social distancing rules as crowds flock to gypsy funeral where they spent four hours with the coffin despite warning that only 15 mourners could attend ceremony

  • Large crowds gathered to attend a gypsy funeral in Thornaby, North Yorkshire despite ongoing lockdown 
  • Social distancing guidelines amid coronavirus meant only 15 people could attend the ceremony
  • However a huge group of mourners turned up to the funeral to pay their respects to Jimmy Connors
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Travellers turned out in huge numbers to attend a funeral in Thornaby, North Yorkshire, in defiance of social distancing measures meant to prevent the spread of coronavirus across the UK.

Guidelines introduced by the government meant that the mourners were told only 15 people could be present for the ceremony, but dozens of attendees could be seen walking alongside the hearse.

Crowds reportedly began to gather around 9am and so many people came to pay respects that the funeral, planned for 1pm, did not begin until 1:40pm, with police watching over the event from afar. 

In defiance of social distancing measures, a large crowd of travellers gathered to attend a gypsy funeral in Thornaby 

There have been several reported instances of groups ignoring social distancing measures to carry out funerals

The number of mourners in attendance, beginning at 9am, meant that the service was delayed by 40 minutes

Funeral director Irene Jessops, whose company is based in Thornaby, was conducting the service and confirmed that mourners had been outside of her funeral home with the coffin since 9am. 

Guidelines instructing people to keep two metres from each other were introduced in March as the coronavirus pandemic reached the UK, with a full nationwide lockdown initiated from March 23.  

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to issue a statement on easing lockdown measures on Sunday night, they currently remain in place and include restrictions on mass gatherings for events such as weddings and funerals.

This is not the first instance of mourners breaking lockdown rules to conduct funerals after travellers in Bedfordshire seized the body of a deceased friend and carried out their own ceremony in April.

The group reportedly threatened to burn down the morgue if the body of the deceased was not returned to them so they could bury him. 

A police van could be seen outside the cemetery keeping a close eye on the gathering that flouted the social distancing rules

And on Tuesday another group packed into Oxbridge Cemetery in Stockton, with police also keeping an eye on the gathering. 

It comes amid mounting pressure on the the Church of England to allow small-scale funerals in churches during lockdown.

Churches shut down in March amid safety concerns over the spread of coronavirus, with current social distancing rules permitting funerals only at crematoriums or at the graveside. 

Large numbers of mourners could be seen walking alongside the hearse on its journey to the cemetery

A letter signed by 36 Conservative MPs suggests clergy should be allowed into churches to officiate services while adhering to safety procedures.

The letter, addressed to Lord Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops of the Church of England, voices concerns that ‘the wishes of the deceased and bereaved are not being fulfilled with a proper committal in the church of their wish’.

Public Health England’s guidance said: ‘Mourners should avoid any direct face to face or physical contact, for example hugging each other unless they are part of the same household.’

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