By Tony Earnshaw | LDRS

A temporary morgue has been equipped and ready for use since in Kirklees the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic – but it has not been needed so far.

The facility close to Huddersfield town centre, which has space for around 350 bodies, forms part of Kirklees Council’s “mortality planning” response to the coronavirus outbreak.

It has been described as “emergency back-up” if normal facilities for storing the dead become “overwhelmed”.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service is not revealing the location of the mortuary, which was set up as long ago as March 2020.

The site represents a sizeable addition to storage owned or rented by funeral homes in the borough.

Last April, as the health emergency worsened, funeral directors were told that bodies could be “held over” at the borough’s crematoria if operationally they were unable to be cremated.

That move, announced via email, followed a £3m refurbishment of the council’s crematoriums in Huddersfield and Dewsbury, which led to the two sites running a reduced number of cremations whilst the work was carried out.

At that point one Huddersfield funeral director said he had not been busier than normal but added: “We are expecting to be busier if the virus lasts as long as we have been told.”

As with other areas of the country, Kirklees experienced a spike in deaths during March, April and May.

However not all can be attributed to Covid-19. Some people have died due to cancer treatment or operations being curtailed or cancelled.

One funeral professional said deaths had been at “a record high” and added: “It is going to get worse.”

As of January 12 the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus reported by Kirklees Council was 24,373, with 1,384 in the last week – a rise of 35.7% on the previous week.

Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust reported a total of 358 deaths so far.

Analysis of figures collected by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that in the 52 weeks to Christmas Day, 2020 604,045 deaths were registered in England and Wales.

That figure echoes the number of civilian deaths in 1918, when more than 600,000 people in England and Wales died. Many were victims of the Spanish Flu.

Clr Paul Davies, the council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Greener Kirklees, said: “Sadly, due to the coronavirus pandemic, everywhere in the country is experiencing more deaths than usual and the situation is no different here in Kirklees.

“We made arrangements early in the pandemic to have a facility ready where we could keep people who have passed away in a secure and respectful way if the normal facilities for storing the deceased became overwhelmed.

“Fortunately we have not needed to open this facility as of yet, and we hope we never do, but it is still there as an emergency back-up as we have to be prepared.”