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Coronavirus: Temporary mortuary planned at airport

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Southampton Airport is planning to extend its runway by 164 metres for bigger planes
Southampton Airport is planning to extend its runway by 164 metres for bigger planes

PLANS are being made for a temporary mortuary at Southampton Airport to cope with the potential scale of Covid-19 deaths in Hampshire.

The operation was announced as total fatality figures for NHS trusts serving areas of Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire, including patients from the New Forest and Christchurch, rose to 139 on Wednesday – nearly double the 71 recorded a week earlier.

The area set aside at the airport is a specially adapted secure location, known as the Grayson Site, and is separate from the passenger terminal.

Simon Bryant, Hampshire County Council’s director of public health, said: “While I understand that people may be concerned about this development, it is important that we are well prepared.

“I would like to reassure the families and friends of those who may be accommodated temporarily at the Grayson Site that their loved ones will be afforded every possible respect, and that we have been liaising closely with faith leaders to ensure that required customs and practices will be observed at all times.”

He added: “We can also assure residents that all necessary precautions will be taken to ensure the highest standards of health and safety are maintained at all times onsite.”

HCC said normal 24/7 security will remain in place across the airport site, which will also be a priority for enhanced police patrols.

Two sites in Dorset – at Poole Port and the Old Radio Station in Dorchester – have also been approved, with Poole ready by next week and Dorchester expected from the beginning of next month.

Councillor Vikki Slade, leader of BCP Council, said: “I’d like to reassure our communities that these are temporary sites, being installed so that we can accommodate a potential increase in the number of deceased safely, compassionately and respectfully.”

“The more we follow national advice now and stay home, the more we are all doing our bit to delay and suppress the spread of the virus and so help reduce the number of deaths locally.”

Councillor Spencer Flower, Leader of Dorset Council added: “We appreciate that this topic is a difficult one for everyone. We are keen to reassure residents that these mortality support units are being established as part of our duty to plan for a worst-case scenario.”

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