Kent health bosses have warned the construction of a pop up mortuary is a ‘stark reminder’ of the threat the county faces from coronavirus.
The Beddow Way facility was opened on New Year’s Day to ease the pressure on the county’s hospital mortuaries.
The mortuary aims to see Kent through the ‘winter months’ with coronavirus infections spiking.
Infection rates have remained high in Kent in the second wave and more than 3,000 people have now died with coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.
There does appear to be some levelling off of infection rates, but the delay between catching the virus and becoming seriously ill means there is likely to be many more deaths in the county.
The giant marquee in Beddow Way was initially set up in April as part of “worst case scenario” planning if mortuaries elsewhere reached capacity.
The morgue is capable of storing more than 800 bodies.
Assistant Chief Constable of Kent Police Claire Nix, who is also the chair of the Kent Resilience Forum, said: “The fact that a Temporary Place of Rest has had to be set up in Kent should serve as a stark reminder that the country is at a critical point and we must all understand how dangerous COVID-19 is.
“Many people are able to recover from catching the virus but there are many who sadly can’t. Hospitals and mortuaries are under increasing pressure and so it has been necessary to have a Temporary Place of Rest established in Aylesford.
“Since the new more transmissible strain of the virus tore through Kent, the county has seen a recent COVID-19 infection rate of almost 800 weekly cases per 100,000 people.
“The Aylesford site, which has the capacity to care for up to 825 recently deceased as they await their funerals, is now operational 24 hours a day as staff cope with the surge in deaths in the county from COVID-19. No post-mortem examinations will be taking place on site.”
Director of Public Health for Kent, Andrew Scott-Clark, added: “The fact that mortuary capacity across Kent is now overwhelmed and that this temporary facility is in use shows us all the shocking reality that COVID-19 is a very real threat indeed.”
And Mike Hill, Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, said: “Along with everyone who worked hard to set up the Aylesford site, I am deeply saddened by the fact it has become necessary to provide additional mortuary space for the county.
“With a capacity of just over 800 deceased, we anticipate Aylesford will see us through the remaining winter months. We will of course continue to keep this under review. “