A Scottish council will use an aircraft hangar on a military base in north-east Scotland as a temporary mortuary if needed during the coronavirus crisis, Sky News has learnt.
Moray Council has been given permission to use the facility at Kinloss Barracks as part of its preparations for an anticipated rise in COVID-19 deaths.
The hangar used to house Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft but is now empty.
“It is one of those hangars that we have acquired purely for an absolute worst-case scenario,” Jim Grant, the head of economic growth and development at the Economy, Environment and Finance Department at Moray Council, told Sky News.
“It is a discrete and secure building that is available to the local authority to use.”
The council hopes that it will never need what is being described as a temporary resting area, with existing, local mortuary capacity sufficient to handle coronavirus victims.
“If people adhere to the lockdown then we will not need to use Kinloss, it is as simple as that,” Mr Grant said.
The Scottish government, as with the rest of the UK, is advising people to stay at home and only go outside for food, health or work reasons.
But if the number of deaths in the area do rise too rapidly, Moray undertakers have been contracted to transport the deceased to Kinloss, a former Royal Air Force base.
The aim is for bodies only to be stored there temporarily until they can be moved back as quickly as possible to the appropriate undertaker for a funeral.
Moray Council said it had asked the Ministry of Defence for use of the hangar.
“Similar to other local authorities, the council has to plan for the worst case scenario emerging from the C-19 [COVID-19] pandemic,” it said in a statement.
“As people are following Scottish Government advice and staying home, we hope that the extra capacity made available to us by the MoD will not be required.
“However, it’s incumbent upon the council to ensure measures are in place to cope with whatever results from the pandemic locally.
“We would ask everyone to adhere to the Scottish government guidance to stay at home so that the number of deaths are reduced and facilities such as this will not be needed.”
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Sky News revealed last week that two vehicle hangars on an army base in Northern Ireland were being leased by the Department of Justice also to be used as a temporary mortuary in case required.
It is understood that the Ministry of Defence is looking across its vast defence estate to identify any other properties that might be suitable for use to house temporary resting places for the dead as part of the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.