Five mourners died after ‘catching coronavirus at illegal large-scale wake’

Hundreds turned out for memorial service in Birmingham with tragic consequences

Colin Drury
Sunday 15 November 2020 09:09
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Coronavirus in numbers

Five mourners who attended a mass funeral wake died after reportedly catching coronavirus there, a Birmingham City Council boss has revealed.

Hundreds of people turned out for the illegal memorial service in the city earlier this year, the authority’s enforcement chief Paul Lankester suggested.

“It was almost a street party type thing to celebrate the life of someone,” he told a virtual meeting of mosque leaders. “We've heard that five people who attended that got Covid and passed away.”

He did not disclose who the wake was for or where precisely it took place.

But he said it was not the only example of illegal large-scale funerals being held in Birmingham: some 200 mourners reportedly tried to break into a cemetery where one funeral was staking place, while another remembrance service was attended by 300 people.

Mr Lankester added: “We've had a very serious incident in the last fortnight where we have taken action against a funeral director.

"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.

And, in the commenst first reported by the Birmingham Mail, he added: "If you organise an illegal gathering above that 30 [people] you could be subject to a penalty notice."

The government's current guidance on funerals in England is that up to 30 people are allowed to gather for services outdoors.

Funerals being held inside can have the same number attend as long as there is room for social distancing.

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