Temporary mortuary being prepared should second wave of Covid hit London


A temporary mortuary is being prepared to cope should the second wave of the coronavirus hits hard in London.

During the spring and early summer, Hillingdon Council’s Breakspear mortuary at Ruislip acted as a temporary resting place for 953 people.

The death toll from coronavirus in London was 8,993 up to 6 November, with the majority of people dying in hospital.

The temporary mortuary in West London was commissioned by London’s 32 councils and the City of London Corporation in mid March and was open by the end of the month, then decommissioned in July.

At a full council meeting Hillingdon Council leader Sir RayPuddifoott said: “It is anticipated that the temporary mortuary that was situated at Breakspear crematorium will be re-established in the coming weeks.”

A spokesman from the pan-London mortality management group said: “As a part of the overall preparedness planning for a second wave of Covid-19, London is ready to manage the higher level of deaths that may result.”

Every council in London paid a fee of  £11,500 each – £379,500 between them –  for the temporary mortuary for four months.

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The spokesman said: “It provided a dignified temporary resting place”  during the peak of the first wave of the pandemic.

He added: “London will continue to prepare extraordinary measures to provide dignified, respectful care for the deceased until such time as the Government advice states that these measures are no longer required. “

He said another site which was used during the first wave could also be used, if necessary.

“At this time, local mortuary capacity is sufficient to provide dignified temporary resting places for the deceased without the need for a temporary regional hub.”

Six temporary mortuaries were set up across London during the first wave,including at Putney, Fulham, the ExCel   Centre and Wanstead Flats in east London.

Westminster City Council and Camden Council are overseeing the arrangements for the mortuary if the second wave strikes hard.

The City of London Corporation approved  £44,000 from its Covid-19 Contingency Fund in July to  “commit the funds to provide for the next four months of the City’s contribution, to ensure provision was maintained as lockdown measures were eased.”

It noted that the allocation  might not all be needed. A report for November’s policy and resources committee showed it has paid £71,000 towards mortuary management fees since April out of its £1.5m Covid contingency fund.

A report for the Corporation’s policy and resources committee by Gregory Moore said: “Its continued maintenance is integral to ensuring the resilience of mortuary capacity in London, particularly in the event of a second wave of infections.”

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