Coronavirus: Temporary morgues being built to cope with death toll

Chilling images show shelves ready to hold bodies of adult and child coronavirus victims in a temporary morgue erected at an Oxfordshire military base (SWNS)

Temporary morgues are being erected across the country as authorities struggle to cope with the rising coronavirus death toll.

Two hangars at this disused RAF site in Oxfordshire have already been converted and it could eventually hold more than 5,000 bodies.

Chilling pictures taken at the weekend reveal how this temporary morgue looks from the inside.

Smaller shelves are being constructed to hold the bodies of children.

Narrower shelves have been designed for the bodies of children in a temporary morgue in Oxfordshire. (SWNS)

A worker at the site at RAF Upper Heyford, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “Two hangars have been done already and two more are on the way.

“It is for storage of bodies infected with coronavirus and they’ll be in body bags and laid on the shelves.

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“It is strange working there – everyone is keeping their distance and wearing masks. It’s a little bit odd, you can either laugh or cry, but you’ve just got to do your work.

“What's strange is there are different-size shelves for children and adults. It can be a little bit crazy.”

A worker on the site at RAF Upper Heyford said two hangars were converted in a week to hold 600 corpses each. Work is ready to start on two further hangars if the death toll rises, with five more on standby to bring total capacity to 5,400. (SWNS)

The initial two hangars took just eight days to erect and were opened for use on Monday.

“Undertakers and NHS staff are refusing to touch the bodies,” added the worker. “They have got the military in, who’ll be taking the bodies in rental vans.

Oxfordshire County Council said in a statement: “In common with all other areas of the country there are longstanding contingency plans to provide extra mortuary space during emergency situations.

“Partners from organisations including the NHS, registration services, coroner’s office and local authorities have been meeting regularly to consider requirements that may be placed upon Oxfordshire during the coronavirus outbreak.”

In Ruislip, west London, a temporary mortuary has been erected in the grounds of a crematorium to cope with the growing number of bodies.

Hillingdon Council said: "Breakspear Crematorium and other sites have been identified as part of London’s strategic resilience response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The locations serve each coronial area from a central geographical point to ensure an efficient, dignified and respectful death management process.

A makeshift morgue is being built at Breakspear Crematorium in Ruislip, west London (Image: Jadey Chapman)

"The sites have been chosen following ongoing dialogue between London's Strategic Coordination Group (SCG), local authorities and representatives of faith communities in London. Together we want to ensure each person receives respectful and dignified care on their final journey. The site will be operational from this week, should it be needed."

An east London parkland usually used by joggers and dog walkers is now the site of a mortuary erected to cater for an increasing number of deaths in the area.

The site of a temporary mortuary in east London is four miles from the Nightingale Hospital which has been set up to cope with the coronavirus crisis (Tolga Akmen / AFP - Getty Images)
The site of a temporary mortuary during construction in Manor Park, east London on April 2, 2020, as part of Britain's government's plans to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. (Tolga Akmen / AFP - Getty Images)

Local residents were notified of the work by Rokhsana Fiaz, mayor of the London borough of Newham.

“The facility will act as a holding point before a respectful and dignified cremation or burial can take place to send a loved one on their final journey,” she wrote.

“Sadly, relatives will not be able to visit the site.”

Fiaz said the land – owned by the City of London Corporation, the authority that governs London's financial district and historic centre – was sequestered for the purpose by the government under recently passed emergency legislation.

The new, temporary 4,000-bed NHS Nightingale Hospital is located four miles away.

Officials at the Cabinet Office, which is helping coordinate the government's coronavirus response, did not respond to Yahoo News UK when asked where and how many temporary mortuaries were being being erected around the country, and how many bodies the facilities were expected to hold.

"The government is pursuing local and regional solutions to provide additional storage which meets the standards necessary to protect the dignity of the deceased as well as the safety of those handling them," a spokesperson said in an email.

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