Advice for mourners and bereaved families during the coronavirus outbreak is that funerals and cremations will go ahead, but numbers will be limited to immediate family – and social distancing and hand-sanitisation must be practised.

The National Association of Funeral Directors advises arranging funerals with families over the phone or via other electronic means, restricting funeral services to the smallest possible number of attendees and ensuring all mourners remain two metres distant from anyone not living in their household.

They also said that at-risk groups are urged not to attend services and all charitable collections should be done online.

Mike Jolly, from Eaves in Whitehaven, said: “Everybody is going to be affected by the restrictions, mainly on the number attending. I have been in touch with local clergy and some of them fall into the age group that should be self-isolating, so it is exceptionally difficult, but we need to carry on doing our service.”

A spokesman for Copeland Council, which runs Distington crematorium, said: “We want to reassure our residents that we are taking every possible measure to protect their health and safety, and that of our employees. Following social distancing advice we have put the following measures in place in an effort to reduce the potential spread of the virus and avoid cross-contamination.

“Our employees will no longer meet and greet relatives; funeral directors and celebrants will lead services into the chapel; we recommend that numbers attending funerals be reduced; all hymn books have been removed from our chapels; we have increased our cleaning regime; we advise attendants to please leave at least one seat between themselves and others; ask that any tissues or other belongings are removed on leaving the chapel; and we kindly ask that if anyone feels unwell, please do not attend the service.”

Celebrant Will Tillotson said: “Things have changed quickly in the last few days. Families are being very understanding during these strange times. They are all doing the best in the circumstances.”

The council spokesman added: “We would like to thank funeral directors and celebrants for their continued support, and our residents for their understanding at this time.”