A facility to cope with a significant increase in bereavements is being built in Lancashire as a contingency measure as part of the emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The temporary morgue will ensure that the county can respond to the emergency whilst ensuring the deceased continue to be treated with dignity and respect before they are laid to rest.
It will be built at BAE Systems at Warton with capacity to house 1,000 deceased to prepare for a potential increase in demand from the Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool areas.
Lancashire County Council is leading on the construction of the facility, which is due to be built in around eight days, ready to be available later this month.
County Councillor Geoff Driver CBE, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “We hope this facility will never need to be used, but it’s vital that we’re prepared in order to ensure the deceased are treated decently and with respect.
“We are very grateful for the support we have received from BAE Systems, who have provided this site and access to utilities free of charge to support the people of Lancashire and help us to deal with this crisis.
“The best way to reduce the numbers of deaths in Lancashire is for everyone to follow the government’s instruction to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.”
The project is part of the response to the coronavirus being led by the Lancashire Resilience Forum, a group of organisations involving the emergency services, local councils, health agencies, and private and voluntary sectors, who work together to prepare and respond to emergencies in the county.
Neil Shaw, Chief Executive of Rossendale Borough Council and lead for planning for excess deaths for the Lancashire Resilience Forum, said: “We have to plan for all contingencies as part of our county’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and sadly some of the plans we must make are around how we handle an anticipated increase in deaths.
“We are hoping this facility will not be needed, but it is important to be prepared and ensure that, whatever happens in the coming weeks, we have the facilities in place to ensure the deceased continue to be treated with dignity and respect.
“The temporary facility is being built as part of Lancashire’s overall emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic on the basis of advice from government about how every local area of the country should be ready for the possibility of a significant increase in deaths.”
Martin Taylor, Chief Operating Officer, BAE Systems Air, said: “As long standing members of the Lancashire community, we stand ready to provide our support at this difficult time. As such, we are working with Lancashire County Council to provide space for a temporary morgue at our site in Warton Aerodrome.
“At this time of national need we must all play our part to support the Government’s efforts in the containment of this pandemic, whether as an individual adhering to the public health guidelines, or in this instance standing by our local council to support the critical work they need to do.”
The council is also working with funeral directors across Lancashire to explain how the facility will work if it is needed.
Please note, we have referred to this as a temporary morgue. We mean this in the commonly-understood sense of the word as a place to keep the deceased until they can be laid to rest. We do not mean this in the legislative sense, which means the facility must be licensed under the Human Tissue Act, and certain activities such as post-mortem examinations will not be carried out at the facility.