A large temporary mortuary has been set up in north Kent to store bodies as the Covid-19 death toll rises.
Kent County Council say the need to ‘activate’ the temporary morgue is a “stark reminder” to everyone to follow the lockdown guidance as
The Aylesford Temporary Place of Rest, a giant marquee located just north of Maidstone in Kent, opened on New Year’s Day to ease pressure on hospital mortuaries which are currently reaching full capacity.
In the last two weeks of 2020, more people have died in the south east of England than anywhere else in England and Wales, and health providers warn they are likely to face even greater pressures in the coming weeks.
Kent and London have been among the very worst hit by the new variant of Covid-19, with both recording infection rates of close to 1,000 weekly cases per 100,000 people.
Assistant Chief Constable of Kent Police Claire Nix, who is also the chair of the Kent Resilience Forum, said: ‘The fact that a Temporary Place of Rest has had to be set up in Kent should serve as a stark reminder that the country is at a critical point and we must all understand how dangerous COVID-19 is.
‘Many people are able to recover from catching the virus but there are many who sadly can’t.
“Hospitals and mortuaries are under increasing pressure and so it has been necessary to have a Temporary Place of Rest established in Aylesford.”
The Beddow Way facility has space for 825 recently deceased bodies as they await funerals and is set among car showrooms and vehicle workshops two miles north of Maidstone.
It is now operational 24 hours a day to help staff cope with the surge in deaths in the county.
An Aylesford Temporary Place of Rest was also erected last spring to cope with the first wave of the pandemic, but has not been needed until now.
Director of Public Health for Kent, Andrew Scott-Clark, said: “The fact that mortuary capacity across Kent is now overwhelmed and that this temporary facility is in use shows us all the shocking reality that COVID-19 is a very real threat indeed.
“The new variant of the virus is thought to be up to 70 percent more transmissible than we saw in the first wave of the pandemic.
“We now have nineteen symptom free testing sites across Kent and it is vital that we continue to identify anyone who tests positive in order that they can self-isolate and that we do everything we can to break the chain of transmission.
“I cannot urge people strongly enough that now, more than ever before during the course of this pandemic, we must all follow the guidance and stay at home unless we absolutely have to go out.
“We have to save lives, protect those that we love and relieve the overwhelming strain on the NHS and our care sector.”
Mike Hill, KCC Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, said: “Along with everyone who worked hard to set up the Aylesford site, I am deeply saddened by the fact it has become necessary to provide additional mortuary space for the county.
“With a capacity of just over 800 deceased, we anticipate Aylesford will see us through the remaining winter months. We will of course continue to keep this under review.
“Meanwhile, staff at the facility are working 24/7 to ease the pressure on our hospital mortuaries and to ensure the dignity of the deceased placed temporarily in our care.
“In the face of so much loss being suffered in our communities, it is both shocking and heart-breaking that some continue to refuse to accept COVID is real.”
Assistant Chief Constable Claire Nix added: “The Government has been clear that the best way to support the NHS and save lives is to stay at home wherever possible. The restrictions are designed to reduce the infection – but they will only work if people comply.
‘Those found not adhering to the rules will be spoken to by police officers and where appropriate fines will be issued.”