Park and ride could store coronavirus victims

The park and ride at Chelmer Valley Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

The park and ride at Chelmer Valley Picture: GOOGLE MAPS - Credit: GOOGLE MAPS

A temporary mortuary is set to be built at a park and ride in Essex to manage excess coronavirus-related deaths.

Essex County Council has contracted Kenyon International Emergency Services Ltd to provide such a service at the Chelmer Park and Ride facility in Essex Regiment Way.

It comes as the government revealed a new drive-in coronavirus testing centre is also to open at an Essex airport.

Located at Stansted Airport, the new facility will help to test thousands more NHS workers.

MORE: Drive-in coronavirus test centre to open at Stansted Airport

The temporary mortuary, which ECC has allocated £10million to run, will help the county to manage excess coronavirus-related deaths.

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A spokesman said: “The council is expecting extremely challenging conditions as Covid-19 takes effect.

“The coroner’s service and therefore excess death management needs to be able to take all necessary action to fulfil its duties during this period and reassure providers of funeral services, bereaved families, and partners in the NHS of its capacity to do so.

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“Without action, there is a great risk of insufficient mortuary capacity given the scale of the coronavirus crisis facing us.”

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Pending government approval of any additional emergency funding, the £10m is set to be drawn down from the general balance to cover the anticipated net cost to the council.

The site may be required for a period of up to six months from April 2020, and the costs will all be incurred during that time frame.

However, it may be necessary to extend this period should Covid-19 continue to infect people within Essex for longer than expected.

A statement in a cabinet report said: “The global outbreak of coronavirus is affecting the UK. The number of cases has grown significantly since early March.

“Urgent preparation, to ensure an effective response to Covid-19, is taking place across the council and with partners.

“Central government has asked local authorities to prepare for the excess deaths that will occur as a result of the pandemic.

“Measures and resources need urgently to be put in place to provide capacity for managing excess deaths with respect and dignity and in accordance with appropriate public health requirements.

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“Plans for managing excess deaths are and will continue to be informed by latest forecasts and guidance from the government’s Covid-19 response team and the existing capacity within the county’s death management services (mortuaries, funeral directors, crematoria, burial grounds, registration services and bereavement services).”

It marks a stepping up of the county’s response to coronavirus, as the number of cases leapt up again to 1,139 yesterday.

The new NHS testing centre, which will provide five testing lanes, is part of a rapidly expanding network being set up across the UK.

The Stansted facility will operate on an appointment basis for self-isolating key NHS workers, or a member of their family showing symptoms.

Employees will be selected and contacted directly by their NHS trust.

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