Work will begin on Tuesday to create space for up to 240 bodies at Bristol City Council’s vehicle fleet servicing depot in Brislington in anticipation of further loss of life due to coronavirus.
The mayor said he hopes that extended mortuary capacity will not be needed as he outlined plans for the temporary facility at the depot between Sandy Park Road and Bloomfield Road.
Marvin Rees said the council is having to prepare for the worse while doing everything possible to limit the spread of Covid-19.
“We’re faced with a heartbreaking but necessary task, to ensure our city is fully prepared in the next few weeks,” said Rees.
“Unfortunately, the sad reality is that we are likely to see a significant number of people lose their lives to coronavirus and we must be ready to ensure we deal with that in the most dignified and sensitive way possible so we can respect the deceased and their families.
“We are following national guidance and building a temporary mortuary, which will be similar to a number of others planned around the country, as we all come to terms with the tragic implications of this crisis.
“Thank you to everyone in Bristol – for your sensitivity and understanding while we make these difficult decisions and as we pull together to support the city’s response to the pandemic.”
The temporary mortuary is expected to be operational by Friday, although it is not anticipated it will be needed so soon. The city council has spent £27,136 on eight refrigerated storage containers.
Once construction is complete, the council has issued assurances the site will be fully secure and private in respect for those who have lost their lives and for the safety of people working there.
The temporary mortuary will consist of six temperature-controlled containers, each with capacity for up to 40 bodies. The existing capacity in the city, excluding that at funeral directors, is for 384 people.
Residents in the Sandy Park area have received letters informing them of the temporary use for the site. Apart from temporary construction work scheduled to last three days, the council says it will not affect those who live nearby.
Speaking at a press briefing via video call on Monday, Rees said: “Hopefully, it will never be fully used, but we need to make provision for use while doing everything we can to prevent the spread of the virus.”
Bristol City Council is also working with partners to look at how to extend burial capacity in the city. Funeral services will have to be shortened and cemeteries in Bristol are now closed to the public.
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