Putney Vale Temporary Mortuary Remains Unused

Facility to store 900 bodies was not needed despite the scale of the pandemic

Putney Vale Crematorium. Picture: Google Streetview


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A temporary mortuary at Putney Vale Crematorium has so far “been unused” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week Wandsworth councillors discussed a report into the council’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, where it was revealed that there had not yet been a need for the temporary facility, which can store 900 bodies.

Paul Chadwick, director of environment and community services, told the committee: “In general we’ve been planning for a ‘worst case than’, and obviously it’s always sad the numbers of deaths, but we planned for a worst case than we’ve had, both in the borough and generally across London.”

Earlier this month the temporary Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel exhibition centre was stood-down as its extra beds were no longer needed.

“We’ve been planning for greater numbers of cremations, greater numbers of burials of course, but we’ve never reached yet, and we’re not expecting to reach the capacity that we’ve built up for that,” said Mr Chadwick.

The temporary mortuary facility at Putney Vale Crematorium was completed by April 19 and took just one week to create.

Mr Chadwick said there was “a fantastic effort from a range of organisations” to build the facility “but it is sitting there unused thankfully”.

He added: “That might be the case, let’s hope so anyway, for the rest of the pandemic.

“It feels like it’s unlikely to be used.”

However, Wandsworth has been hit particularly hard by the virus.

As of May 4, 291 people had lost their lives from COVID-related causes out of a total 716 deaths registered in Wandsworth.

The cumulative rate of confirmed cases in Wandsworth was also higher than average rates for London and England.

Council leader Ravi Govinida opened the meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee by expressing “the loss and condolences for the deaths that have occurred in our borough and deaths amongst those who are serving the people of our borough.”

He also thanked “a litany of fantastic effort by all members of council staff in rising to the challenge.”

Leader of the Labour opposition, Simon Hogg, added: “Sadly hundreds of people have now died of coronavirus in Wandsworth and our deepest condolences are with their families and with their friends. We know that on top of this dreadful illness, we are having a very serious economic collapse as well, so while so many families are grieving we’re actually seeing jobs and businesses being lost as well.”

He joined cClr Govindia by paying tribute to officers, adding: “Locally I’ve been really impressed by the council’s response, caring for the vulnerable, delivering food, providing an outpatient service and organising volunteers.”

Sian Bayley - Local Democracy Reporter

May 15, 2020

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