Preparations are under way to convert an ice rink in Milton Keynes into an emergency mortuary “in a matter of days”.
To cope with a rise in deaths due to coronavirus, the Planet Ice venue in South Row will act as a temporary mortuary in the event local funeral directors are unable to hold bodies.
In a statement released on Tuesday, a Milton Keynes Council spokesman said: “As part of sensible planning we are considering what additional temporary mortuary facilities may be needed in Milton Keynes if funeral directors are unable to cope with a rise in deaths from Covid-19.
“We’re working with the owners of Planet Ice to ready the rink as a precaution should it be needed to support local operations.
“Part of Elder Gate (starting from South Elder roundabout) and a short section of Avebury Boulevard will be closed temporarily to facilitate this. The supermarket access is unaffected.
“Ice rinks elsewhere in the UK have previously been used as temporary mortuary facilities, as their existing infrastructure can typically be adapted faster and more effectively than other buildings.”
The news comes after work began on a temporary mortuary at Birmingham Airport which could hold up to 12,000 bodies in a worst-case scenario.
Milton Keynes Council leader Peter Marland said the local authority is keeping the 2,800 capacity ice rink open to ensure the venue remains at the temperature needed for the temporary morgue.
He said work to convert the rink would take “a matter of days” and predicts the venue could hold bodies “in the hundreds”.
He added: “We have been planning for a while around capacity as we picked up quite early that it could be an issue for us.
“We only have one crematorium and the next nearest one is in Wing.
“If the worst is to happen we wanted to make sure that that person and their family had as much dignity as possible.”
In the UK, a total of 1,789 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus.