Families and friends will be able to mourn their loved ones in unlimited numbers at funerals in England from 17 May, under new plans.
As part of the next step in easing restrictions, the government is preparing to remove the 30-person legal limit a month earlier than planned.
This means any number of mourners will be able to gather so long as they can safely socially distance in the venue.
Weddings will be limited to 30 from 17 May, and an unlimited number from June.
The limit for weddings in England is currently 15 people.
During the pandemic, many have been forced to watch funerals from home over live-streams, making grieving harder. And those able to attend have had to do without handshakes and hugs.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said people have made “huge sacrifices” – nowhere more apparent than in the “deeply painful” restrictions on funerals.
At the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral service last month, the Queen had to sit alone in the chapel in Windsor.
Only 30 people, most of them the duke’s closest family, were able to attend, in line with coronavirus restrictions.
Mr Jenrick said he would work with faith leaders and funeral home managers to introduce new arrangements to continue to keep people safe once the limit has been lifted.
In Scotland, up to 50 people can go to a funeral, with plans to extend that to 100 from 7 June. Neither Wales nor Northern Ireland has a limit on numbers, but venues can set restrictions.
In other developments, MPs are warning that curbs on foreign holidays should be kept in place to protect the UK from Covid variants.
The ban on foreign holidays is expected to be lifted for people in England from 17 May, but a cross-party group of MPs say current restrictions should be continued beyond that date.
They want the government to “discourage all international leisure travel”, saying new variants could lead to more lockdowns and further deaths.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus described airport arrival halls as “a breeding ground for infection”.
Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, who chairs the APPG, said urgent measures were needed to better detect fake Covid test certificates, reduce overcrowding in arrival halls, and separate those arriving from countries classed as higher risk.
A government spokesperson said: “We introduced robust border controls to stop coronavirus variants in their tracks and every essential check we’ve introduced for arrivals has strengthened our defences against new mutations.”
They said the new “traffic-light” system, where red is the riskiest for Covid and green the safest, would allow them to manage the risk from imported cases by varying restrictions depending on the risk of travel from a specific location.
Meanwhile in Wales, two households who form a “bubble” will once again be able to meet and hug indoors from Monday The bubble can also include someone who lives on their own.
Gyms, leisure centres and community centres will reopen, with exercise classes for up to 15 adults allowed. Children’s indoor activities including scout groups can also meet again.
These changes had been timetabled for later in the year but were brought forward because the number of cases in Wales remains low.
The seven-day rolling case rate in Wales stands at 10.8 per 100,000 people, the lowest rate since 1 September last year.
In the UK as a whole, a further 1,671 cases were reported on Sunday, and there were 14 more deaths of people within 28 days of a positive Covid test.
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Date: 3 May 2021
Author: By Marie Jackson