A temporary mortuary is to be built in east London as the number of deaths from Covid-19 in the UK surpassed 2,000.
Newham Council said on Tuesday that work had started on the site which would “act as a holding point” before burial or cremation can take place – but that family members would not be able to visit the bodies of their loved ones.
The building is modular so its size can be adjusted to ensure the necessary capacity is met, a spokesman with the Strategic Co-ordination Group (SCG) said.
Response to any major incident in London is steered by the SCG, which is part of the London Resilience Forum.
The announcement comes as the UK's Department of Health announced that 2,352 patients had died in hospital after testing positive for the virus as of 5pm on Tuesday, up by 563 from 1,789 the day before.
Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz said: “We know that the number of deaths will rise.
“That is why as part of the Government’s response, additional mortuary space is being found and one of those is Manor Flats in the Manor Park area of Newham.”
The Coronavirus Act 2020, which received royal assent on March 25, gives the British Government the power to demand that the City Corporation provide site access for this purpose.
“The facility will act as a holding point before a respectful and dignified cremation or burial can take place to send a loved one on their final journey,” added Ms Fiaz.
“Sadly relatives will not be able to visit the site.”
Ms Fiaz said that funerals would take place following new guidance from Public Health England to ensure they were conducted safely and in line with social distancing principals.
“Funeral directors and faith leaders will be encouraging people to help reduce the risk of spreading the infection by restricting the number of mourners who attend burials,” she said.
“They’ve also strongly advised that mourners should not take part in any rituals or practices that bring them into close contact with the body of the person who has died from or with symptoms of coronavirus since there is a small but real risk of transmission from the body of a deceased person.”
Ms Fiaz assured residents that the land would be fully reinstated once the “desperate situation” had passed.