No need yet for Lancashire's coronavirus morgue

A temporary mortuary created in anticipation of the potential number of deaths which could be caused by coronavirus in Lancashire has not so far been needed.

Friday, 5th June 2020, 4:16 pm
Updated Friday, 5th June 2020, 4:18 pm

The facility was built at the BAE Systems plant at Warton in Fylde back in April, with the capacity to store 1,000 bodies – but the Local Democracy Reporting Service can reveal that it has now been placed into “standby mode”.

However, the county's residents are being warned that the welcome news is not a cause for complacency, as Lancashire remains focused on avoiding a second peak in infections and the deaths which would ultimately follow.

County council leader Geoff Driver said that he was firmly “touching wood”, as he revealed that the £1.8m mortuary had not yet been called upon.

A visual representation of how Lancashire's temporary morgue might look (image courtesy of Lancashire County Council - this is not the actual facility at Warton)

“It was expenditure that we had to incur, we couldn’t risk [not building it]. The figures that were coming from Public Health England about the potential excess deaths were frightening, but, thankfully, they haven’t materialised.

“Sadly, we have seen an increase in deaths as a result of coronavirus, but that increase was less than what could have happened had the people of Lancashire not acted responsibly and abided by the government's instructions to stay home.

“We are grateful to the mortuaries and funeral directors of Lancashire who have managed the sad increase in bereavements so well and I would also like to thank all of the staff who were involved in delivering this project and working on-site to ensure the deceased would have been treated with dignity and respect before being laid to rest.

“We’ve now stood down some of the running costs of the mortuary. But clearly if there’s a second peak which causes another problem, we can bring it back [into use] very quickly,” County Cllr Driver said.

Only last week, Lancashire’s director of public health advised schools not to reopen to more pupils because of the risk that the move could spark coronavirus outbreaks which it might not be possible to contain with current testing capacity.

As of 5th June, 898 people have died in Lancashire hospitals after testing positive for coronavirus.

Detective Superintendent Andy Cribbin, who is responsible for the management of deaths for the Local Resilience Forum – the organisation leading the county’s response to the coronavirus crisis - said that the county had had to “plan for contingencies”, including “an anticipated increase in deaths”.

“We hoped we didn't need the facility and thankfully, so far, that has been the case.”

BAE Systems offered use of their land and utilities free of charge in order to host the temporary mortuary.