Temporary coronavirus mortuary at former air base not put into use

The main entrance to Scottow Enterprise Park at the former RAF Coltishall
site. Picture: Neil Perry

The main entrance to Scottow Enterprise Park at the former RAF Coltishall site. Picture: Neil Perry / Archant - Credit: Archant

The temporary mortuary set up on a Norfolk air base to cope with the expected increase in the number of people in the county dying with coronavirus has not had to be used.

Council bosses always hoped that the facility built in a hangar at Scottow Enterprise Park - the former RAF Coltishall base - would not have to be put into use.

And, with the number of coronavirus cases having now peaked, Norfolk County Council has confirmed that they did not need to make use of it.

The county’s hospital mortuaries, crematoria and funeral parlours were able to cope with the tragic toll.

As of May 14, 334 people with coronavirus had died in Norfolk’s hospitals, 108 at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, 126 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn and 100 at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston.

Seventy-seven people living in Norfolk care homes died after contracting coronavirus between April 10 and May 8.

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Although the council has paused work at the Scottow mortuary, it will not be taken down just yet.

A spokeswoman said: “The temporary mortuary at Scottow was set up to cope with the expected increase in the numbers dying from COVID-19.

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“We always hoped it wouldn’t be needed and that social distancing measures would work in keeping the rate of infection down.

“The government has confirmed the virus has peaked and we have not had to use the Scottow centre.

“We have reduced the number of people on site and paused work at the mortuary. However, we are not complacent and will continue to maintain the mortuary over the coming months.

“We continue to hope it is not needed and the numbers losing their lives to this disease continues to reduce.”

Restrictions around COVID-19 has meant some people have not been able to visit hospitals or care homes or to travel to say goodbye to loved ones, while attendance at funerals has been limited.

The Norfolk Resilience Forum has set up a service offering extra support to those who have lost a loved one.

Norfolk County Council, in conjunction with the Working Together Partnership, is offering people calling to book an appointment to register a death a 30-minute bereavement support call.

The calls will be made by trained members of the council’s library and information services and offer the opportunity for people to be supported by having a sympathetic, listening ear.

Once the call is complete, the caller may be referred, if needed, for ongoing, longer-term support from a bereavement organisation.

Ceri Sumner, spokeswoman for the Norfolk Resilience Forum, said: “The forum hopes this new bereavement service will go some way to help people dealing with loss during these challenging circumstances.

“At a time when people cannot physically visit hospitals or care homes, or travel to be at a loved one’s side, we hope this service will provide some comfort and support to those across Norfolk who are grieving.”

Margaret Dewsbury, cabinet member for communities and partnerships at the county council, said: “This is a great example of the county council, districts, voluntary, community and social enterprise agencies all communicating as one to deliver a much-needed service during this challenging time.

“I’m very proud of how prepared and flexible our library staff have been in learning new skills for the bereavement service.”

Registrations can be booked by calling 0344 800 8020.

MORE: Protect Norfolk: New campaign urges people to stop coronavirus spread

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