Island ‘well prepared for worst-case scenario’ of Covid deaths

JERSEY is in a much better place than the UK to deal with a heightened number of deaths per day during the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak in the Island, a funeral director has said.

Paul Battrick, managing director of Pitcher & Le Quesne funeral directors                                                             Picture: ROB CURRIE. (27912226)
Paul Battrick, managing director of Pitcher & Le Quesne funeral directors Picture: ROB CURRIE. (27912226)

And while new strict guidelines on funerals for all deaths have been introduced to help slow the spread – including reducing ceremonies to direct family and a maximum of ten people – Paul Battrick, of Pitcher & Le Quesne, said measures were in place to mitigate the impact on relatives.

Special memorial services are being offered to families to celebrate the lives of loved ones at a later date. Currently, as a measure to slow the spread of the virus, mourners cannot even sing hymns.

Elsewhere, the government has plans to set up a temporary morgue – called ‘The Sanctum’ – should existing space for bodies pre-funeral be exceeded. Last month, health bosses said the Island had forecast up to 500 deaths in a ‘worst-case scenario’.

There are currently100 morgue spaces split evenly between the Hospital and the various funeral homes in the Island.

A group including funeral directors, government officials, police officers, the Deputy Viscount, Superintendent Registrar and faith groups are meeting regularly to discuss plans.

A government spokeswoman said: ‘Jersey has enhanced appropriate protocols for the safe handling of bodies and dignified burials for any patients who have died or are suspected to have died from Covid-19.’

Due to social-distancing restrictions and to protect all Islanders, the government has restricted the number of mourners attending funerals to a maximum of ten close family members. Funerals can only be attended by those family members that are not in isolation or not required to self-isolate as a result of the death.

A safe distance of at least two metres must be maintained between individuals – making it difficult for family members outside the same household to console each other.

Mr Battrick said there were challenging times ahead for funeral directors but they were determined to offer families the same support.

Pitcher & Le Quesne have taken on seven extra staff to help with an expected rise in administration work over the coming weeks and months.

According to a government model, Jersey is expecting to hit its Covid-19 infection peak around the first week of May.

‘Having to be able to bring someone into our care in full PPE [personal protective equipment] is an unusual experience and, I’ll be honest, quite worrying. But the situation in Jersey is very good – we are premier division compared with the UK,’ he said.

‘The government and the private sector work so well together – there is no us and them.’

He added: ‘We are well prepared for a worst-case scenario’.

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