Work has started on a temporary mortuary site at Birmingham Airport in preparation for a predicted rise in the number of fatalities from coronavirus.

The site – the UK’s third largest airport outside London – will initially be able to accommodate 1,500 deaths as usual mortuary provisions reach capacity, but will expand to hold more.

It is anticipated that the new site could ultimately accommodate all deaths across the West Midlands, including those not related to coronavirus, and regional mortuaries may close due to staffing the new facility.

According to West Midlands Police, “It is vital that the right facilities are in place to ensure we give the utmost dignity and respect at all times to those who die as a result of this illness.

“We will do everything we can to accommodate religious requirements during these difficult times and we are working closely with faith leaders and religious groups.”

Senior Birmingham Coroner Louise Hunt said: “We understand that it is a very difficult time for everyone and we will do all that we can to make sure bereaved families understand what is happening to their loved ones and to release them for funeral as soon as we can.”

Birmingham Airport could become a mortuary to store dead bodiesVelela
Birmingham Airport is to become a mortuary to store dead bodies

Assistant Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine from West Midlands Police chairs the Strategic Co-ordination Group (SCG) which oversees the multi-agency response:

“The SCG – made up of key agencies across West Midlands and Warwickshire – convenes every day to manage the multi-agency response to coronavirus.

“This is a major incident but by bringing all public sector agencies and partners together we are able to better deal with this challenge together and work jointly at a critical time of need.

“The temporary mortuary is just one example of how we are all working together to best serve our local people.”

An Airport spokesperson said: “Birmingham Airport can confirm that it is working with the authorities to provide land and a hangar for a temporary mortuary site at the Elmdon side of Birmingham Airport, to support with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This mortuary is anticipated to accommodate the deceased from across the region, including those not related to coronavirus. Birmingham Airport will do its utmost to support this multi-agency response during these difficult times.”

Sandwell Council said it was working with local authorities on mortuary provision across the West Midlands.

Councillor Wasim Ali, cabinet member for resources and core services, said: “Unfortunately, everyone is only too aware that families are very sadly losing loved ones to coronavirus.

“We are confident that the work we are doing now will make sure resources that may sadly be needed over the coming months are in place.”

The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Solihull may be used as a field hospital during the coronavirus crisisN-allen
The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Solihull may be used as a field hospital during the coronavirus crisis

Earlier this week, it was suggested that the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) near the airport in Solihull could double up as a field hospital, in a similar model as planned for the smaller London’s ExCeL Centre.

The news comes as Birmingham City Council announced that funerals will be limited to six people due to the outbreak and the need for strict social distancing. It has also been revealed the West Midlands has the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the UK outside of London.

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