Updated on 10 March 2020
The audience for this document is any individual, family, group or organisation that is organising a funeral in Queensland.
The purpose of this document is to assist individuals, families, groups or organisation to understand the current restrictions and what requirements need to be met when organising a funeral in Queensland.
Why have we changed the way funerals can occur?
The world is in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is a disease that can cause mild symptoms to more severe illness that affects the lungs and can cause death. Keeping Queenslanders safe and preventing the spread of the disease is crucial.
Great consideration has been given to funeral attendance, particularly regarding attendance limits, service requirements and cultural circumstances. A funeral protocol has been in place from the outset to enable larger numbers to gather for funerals while managing the risk.
As epidemiological conditions improve and COVID-19 vaccines begin to be rolled out across Australia, Queensland has been able to ease some restrictions.
The intent of easing of restrictions is to gradually increase the circumstances in which people might gather for non-essential activities and gradually increase the number of people that might gather at a time. Activities and events are returning in a steady manner, with a gradual increase in numbers.
What are we doing to stop the spread of COVID-19?
COVID-19 can be spread between people in the community when an infected person coughs or sneezes near others. It can also be spread if an infected person has coughed or sneezed onto a surface that might be used by others (like a door handle or mobile phone) and then another person touches their face after touching the contaminated surface.
The way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 is:
physical distancing: keeping 1.5 m away from another person, especially when they are coughing or sneezing;
limiting exposure: isolating sick people, quarantining people who have been in close contact with someone who has had COVID-19, no shaking hands/hugging/kissing, and limit face touching;
good hygiene: hand washing, throwing used tissues in the bin, covering the mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing; or sneezing and coughing into elbow or shoulder, and wiping down commonly used surfaces (door handles, toilet flushes, mobile phones etc.).
In March 2020, to further reduce the spread of COVID-19, rules on gatherings of people were also agreed by National Cabinet. Various restrictions on gatherings have been in place in all Australian jurisdictions since then.
What is the guidance for funerals in Queensland?
In Queensland, Directions are made by the Chief Health Officer under section 362B of the Public Health Act 2005.
The Restrictions on Businesses, Activities and Undertakings Direction provides for restrictions on funerals.
Under this Direction, funeral services may have one person per 2 square metres; or a maximum of 200 people, whichever is greater. The 200 person limit includes the persons conducting the funeral service.
The number of attendees permitted at wakes, memorial events or gatherings after the funeral and similar events will be determined by the location it is held, for example, in a person's home or at a business. Further information is below.
Measures to follow for the funeral
Retain a register of people who attend the funeral, including current contact details. The purpose of this is to assist Queensland Health with contact tracing, if required
The venue must be of sufficient size and layout (e.g. spacing of chairs) to allow for physical distancing to be implemented, including 1.5 metres between attendees where possible.
People 70 years of age and over and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 55 years and over, or people severely immunocompromised, such as with cancer, are advised to consider their own circumstances before attending a funeral.
Attendees arriving from overseas on a quarantine free flight and from a safe travel zone country can enter Queensland without the need to quarantine and can attend the funeral.
Attendees who have arrived from anywhere else overseas in the 14 days prior to arriving in Queensland, or did not travel to Australia on a quarantine free flight, will be required to undertake a 14 day period of self-quarantine as outlined in the Quarantine for International Arrivals Direction.
Attendees who are arriving from interstate may not be permitted entry to Queensland if they are coming from a COVID-19 hotspot. Interstate arrivals must obtain a Queensland Border Declaration Pass and undertake a period of self-quarantine if required.
No-one who is sick or has COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, should attend.
No-one who has been in contact in the last 14 days with a known case of COVID-19 should attend.
Provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser and ensuring hygiene facilities are well stocked.
Wakes, memorials, receptions and all other events/activities after the funeral
Wakes, memorials, receptions and all other events/activities occurring after a ceremony will have different permitted limits depending on where it is held.
In accordance with the Movement and Gathering Direction, private ceremonies conducted in public outdoor areas and spaces in a non-restricted area can have a maximum of 100 people attend including the service director.
In restricted areas, private ceremonies performed in public outdoor areas and spaces can have a maximum of 10 people attend including the service director. Restricted areas are determined by the Chief Health Officer and published on the Queensland Health website. There are currently no restricted areas.
Where a wake, memorial or reception is held at a restricted business, e.g. a function venue or pub, and the business is operating under a COVID Safe Industry Plan, the plan will detail the number of attendees permitted. If the business is not operating under a COVID Safe Industry plan, the number of attendees would be determined by the 2 or 4 square metre rule, depending on the size of the venue.
The above measures for funerals should also be adopted for events held after the funeral.