County council confirms emergency Aylesford morgue opens as Covid deaths rise


By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

The “sobering reality” of the pandemic has been laid bare as an emergency coronavirus morgue opens in Kent.

On New Year’s Day, the first deceased arrived at Aylesford’s temporary mortuary.

It was one of three sites proposed nine months ago by Kent County Council (KCC) in “worse-case” scenario planning for rising death rates from Covid.

More than 80,000 people have died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test in the UK as “pressure” on NHS hospitals and the country’s mortuary services grows.

In Surrey, at least 170 bodies are being kept in a temporary mortuary at Headley Court in Leatherhead as resources become stretched.

Earlier today at a virtual meeting, KCC’s Conservative cabinet revealed that the Aylesford morgue had been established.

Ashford county councillor Mike Hill (Con), who is KCC’s cabinet member for communities, described the news as “sad”.

Meanwhile, Maidstone County Hall opposition leader Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem) said the use of pop up mortuaries represented a “sobering reality” and said: “We are looking at a dire situation in Kent as more local mortuaries are full. The temporary morgue in Aylesford is having to take bodies in at an unprecedented rate.”

The Beddow Way site has a floor space of at least 1,000 square metres and is expected to operate for 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Around £11million was set aside in April by KCC to prepare three emergency morgues which can store up to 3,000 bodies, including one in Aylesford.

Earlier today, the cabinet was told about the pressing need for the service.

Cllr Hills, of Ashford, said: “At Aylesford, the county council has sadly had to stand up the temporary place of rest because of the pressure on mortuary services across the county. This urgent requirement emerged on December 30.

“Despite it being the Christmas period, with many contractors away, KCC was able to stand Aylesford up in 48 hours to make it operational by New Year’s Day.
“The first deceased arrived that afternoon. To get a facility ready normally takes weeks. I would like to put on record our appreciation to the enormous efforts of staff working all through the holiday period.”
KCC has been approached for comment on the Aylesford site and whether other temporary morgues will be stood up.