Temporary Morgue the Size of Two Football Pitches Being Built in London

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 02: A general view of a makeshift morgue being built on Wanstead Flats on April 2, 2020 in London, England. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 40,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Justin …
Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

While the UK is working on building field hospitals in convention centres across the UK to deal with an increasing number of patients, emergency coronavirus measures are also taking into account the projected rise in deaths with the founding of temporary morgues.

A temporary morgue is being built in the London borough of Newham which will “act as a holding point” before burial or cremation, in anticipation of a surge in deaths in the capital.

Rokhsana Fiaz, the mayor of Newham, said in comments reported by the Evening Standard: “We know that the number of deaths will rise. That is why as part of the Government’s response, additional morgue space is being found and one of those is Manor Flats in the Manor Park area of Newham.”

The Mirror reports it will initially be the size of two football pitches. The city’s first coronavirus morgue was built behind Westminster Coroners’ Court in central London, but that is expected to hold no more than 100 bodies.

While weddings and baptisms have been banned during the coronavirus lockdown and places of worship barred from receiving congregants, funerals are still permitted, albeit with faith leaders and funeral directors instructed to encourage bereaved family members to keep services small.

“They’ve also strongly advised that mourners should not take part in any rituals or practices that bring them into close contact with the body of the person who has died from or with symptoms of coronavirus since there is a small but real risk of transmission from the body of a deceased person,” Ms Fiaz added, with the report noting that family members will not be able to visit the bodies of their loved ones in the field morgue.

Meanwhile, a military aircraft hanger in Scotland may be turned into a temporary morgue in the case of an “absolute worst-case scenario”. Moray Council has been given permission to use the hanger at Kinloss Barracks, which used to house the now-retired Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft.

“It is one of those hangars that we have acquired purely for an absolute worst-case scenario,” Jim Grant, an official from Moray Council, told Sky News.

Milton Keynes icerink may also be transformed into a temporary morgue if Buckinghamshire funeral directors are unable to cope with the numbers of fatalities.

On Wednesday, the government revealed that Tuesday had seen the largest single increase in coronavirus deaths at 563, bringing the total to 2,352. The UK is around two weeks behind the progress of Europe’s worst-hit country, Italy, with its dead having overwhelmed its morgues.

The Newham morgue is just four miles away from the field hospital NHS Hospital Nightingale London at the ExCeL convention centre in the east London Docklands area, which is currently being completed. The London Nightingale, when completed, will have the capacity for 4,000 coronavirus patients. Two other smaller Nightingales, with capacities of up to 2,000, are being constructed in Manchester and Birmingham. They are being built by the military’s COVID-19 Support Force, with reports claiming that they could be looking to build between ten and 13 across the country in total.

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