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Coronavirus Kent: Kent cemeteries and crematoriums shutting following government advice

Memorial grounds including cemeteries and crematoriums are shutting across Kent in line with new national advice on the coronavirus outbreak.

Several councils in the county have already confirmed that they are closing their grounds, while more announcements are expected.

Cemeteries and crematoriums are closing their grounds. Picture: Alan Langley
Cemeteries and crematoriums are closing their grounds. Picture: Alan Langley

Funerals and cremations will still take place, but with reduced numbers as per government guidelines.

The move is in light of advice published by the Institute of Cemeteries and Crematorium Management to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

A statement on the Institute's website reads: "We have had reports of people using the cemeteries as an alternative to parks to get round the social distancing measures.

"This is not acceptable and could compromise the aims of the Government’s measures to slow the spread of the virus.

"The Government gave very clear guidance about the reasons that people can leave their homes – visiting a cemetery or crematorium other than for a funeral is not one of them."

"It would be wrong of us to risk public health by ignoring this advice"

So far, council-owned crematoriums and cemeteries have closed their grounds in Folkestone, Hythe, Gravesham, and Romney Marsh.

In Medway, all four council-run cemeteries are open.

The London Crematorium Company, which has crematoriums in Sittingbourne and Gravesend, has also announced that it is closing the grounds in all of its establishments.

However, Ashford Borough Council say that their cemetery grounds will remain open.

A council spokesman said: "These are hugely emotional times and we have taken the view that those who have lost loved ones should still be able to attend their grave.

"Providing people remain respectful of both the cemeteries and respect social distancing, this will be our position."

Folkestone and Hythe District Councillor John Collier, who is cabinet member for property management and grounds maintenance, said the council had a duty of care to its residents.

He said: "These unprecedented times have highlighted just how important our loved ones are, so we know this will cause some upset among residents, but it would be wrong of us to risk public health by ignoring this advice.

"We will reopen the grounds of our cemeteries and crematoriums as soon as national guidelines allow."

The announcements by the various councils have been greeted with angry reactions from residents, with many quick to suggest that social distancing was observed more in cemeteries than in supermarkets.

One angry resident commented on Gravesham Borough Council's announcement: "This is ridiculous, in all the years I’ve visited cemeteries or the crematorium for loved ones, I’ve only ever seen other people off in the distance.

"However, in the supermarket people are still brushing past each other."

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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