Leeds emergency Covid mortuary is storing bodies for first time as death toll rises

An emergency mortuary in Leeds is storing bodies for the first time as the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the city continues to rise, LeedsLive can exclusively reveal.

The £800,000 facility was built rapidly last year at the outset of the pandemic, with normal planning procedures bypassed due to the urgent nature of the project.

For the majority of 2020, the mortuary was not in use. However, the first bodies were stored at the facility in late-November and it has been in use ever since.

A spokesperson for Leeds City Council said the facility, based in a huge warehouse on Waterside Industrial Park, Stourton, took in “patients” for the first time in the weeks leading up to Christmas “to relieve pressure on hospital mortuary provision”.

In total, 50 patients have been stored at the facility, although it is understood that only a small number are currently at the south Leeds site.

The emergency mortuary has been built on Waterside Industrial Park, Stourton

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that 1,269 people died from coronavirus in Leeds in 2020.

In the most recent week, deaths related to Covid-19 made up 16 per cent of the total 121 fatalities in the city.

Construction on the emergency mortuary began in April last year and the scheme was rushed through approval stages to ensure it was ready “as soon as possible”.

It was built by Bradford-based commercial kitchen suppliers Airedale Catering Equipment Ltd.

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A report into the huge construction project, released last April, said: “As part of the emergency planning in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, the City Council is making preparations for the provision of a temporary mortuary to support existing facilities in the city.

“Given the urgency of the nature of the works it was vital that Authority to Spend of £800,000 be approved so that an initial order (to the value of £306,000 rounded) could be placed, so that the temporary facility is available to support existing mortuary facilities in the city as soon as possible.”

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