London could face mass graves, the military being deployed and up to 40,000 people dead in the “worst case scenario” of an outbreak like coronavirus .
Official documents obtained by the Daily Star Online reveal the chilling reality of the capital being hit by a large scale epidemic.
Contingency plans have been drawn by the London Resilience Partnership (LRP) – which includes the London Resilience Team (LRT) – about what options would be on the table in “significant event” such as a viral outbreak.
It comes as the Cabinet Office reportedly briefed local authorities to prepare their excess deaths plans for a large coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday.
Daily Star Online unearthed the document titled the London Excess Deaths Framework which details the capital’s options in the event of a crisis like coronavirus.
Grim considerations discuss what to do with bodies, such as how to store and bury them, and a “reasonable worst case scenario” in which it is estimated 39,600 people die.
And it comes as the World Health Organisation raised the global threat from coronavirus to "very high".
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The 42-page document breaks down each issue of a mass death event – providing suggested solutions for the London authorities.
Documents describe an around additional 1,058 people dying per week should London be hit with a “reasonable worst case” epidemic.
The excess death plan explains that local authorities would have to find more space bodies – including possibly in warehouses and hangers.
It also describes easing legislation on declarations of deaths and inquests to more quickly bury or burn bodies.
And in terms of transporting bodies, the document describes the need may arise to bring in the military to help move corpses.
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Burial sites may also be allowed to have “24 hour operations, seven days a week” to process the dead.
Joint memorial services for the dead are also proposed for those of the same faith.
Mass graves are also described as a the “easiest” method of burial with the use “heavy machinery”.
However, it is made clear this is a last resort only when all other options have been exhausted to upload the dead’s “dignity and respect”.
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Extending existing graveyards or re-using existing cemeteries is also an option, the document describes.
Funeral pyres may also be used if crematoriums cannot keep up with the amount of the dead.
And included in the document is a breakdown of each faith their rituals for death and funeral rites.
Backlog of bodies may also lead to the freezing capabilities need to store corpses.
It estimates 75% of people would prefer to be cremated, and 25% of people would prefer a burial.
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The LRP was set up in 2004 as part of nationwide emergency planning in the Civil Contingencies Act.
Made up of 170 organisations, it itself themselves as ensuring “London’s preparedness in the event of emergencies”.
Documents seen by Daily Star Online are labelled “Version 1” and are dated June 2014 – while Boris Johnson was Mayor of London.
Planning in the documents is said to take into account “any” disaster which could strike London, with principles “transferable to deal with any human infectious disease outbreak”.
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Death models in the documents are based on a pandemic of influenza.
World Health Organisation officials today declared: “If this was influenza, we would probably have called this a pandemic by now.
“But what we’ve seen with this virus is that containment works and to declare a pandemic it’s unhelpful to do that when you are still trying to contain a disease.”
The London Excess Deaths Framework will activated by a “Gold” responder, a chief executive appointed in the case of an emergency who is advised by the LRT.
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The London excess death document defines a “significant event” as including the outbreak of a “communicable disease”.
Minutes from a February 6 meeting of the London Resilience Forum where coronavirus was discussed also confirms a version of the document was approved.
It described as “streamlined” and with new “contingency options” in the notes from the meeting at City Hall.
Schools have already begun to close within Britain, and a number of offices in London have ordered workers to stay at home – including Chevron and OMD Media.
Doctors have confirmed 19 people in the UK have been diagnosed with coronavirus, which has more than doubled since last week.
And the first Brit has been killed by the infection, contracting the virus while on the Diamond Princess cruise ship which was quarantined in Japan.
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The Mayor’s Office declined to comment specifically on this report, but said the London Resilience Forum continue to meet with a officials to monitor the impact of London.
Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “I want to reassure Londoners that although the risk of coronavirus to individuals remains low, we are not complacent.
“I’m in regular contact with Public Health England to ensure we have the latest advice and to monitor the impact on our city.
“As Mayor, it is my role to ensure the city is fully prepared and that means ensuring that Londoners have access to the best possible advice.
“ It’s also really important we are working together so if things were to get worse, w have everything in place to respond.”
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BBC Newsnight reported on Wednesday that the Cabinet Office has ordered local authorities to step up their mass death preparedness for the coronavirus outbreak.
It was reported Government officials had been in discussions about new burial sites.
Whitehall sources said the discussions were “uncommon” but not “unprecedented" – saying similar plans were considering during the Swine Flu outbreak in 2009.
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In a statement to Daily Star Online, the Cabinet Office said: “We have been clear from the outset that we expect coronavirus to have some impact on the UK, which is why we are planning for every eventuality – including the reasonable worst case scenario.
“Crucially this does not mean we expect it to happen.
“Public safety is our top priority and while there are currently only 19 confirmed cases in the UK, we have a team of public health experts and scientists working round the clock to make sure the NHS and UK more widely is fully prepared.”
This comes as MP Nickie Aiken said plans were already in place in London, reports Bloomsbury.
She said: “We have contingency plans to open up a morgue in Hyde Park, in tents.
“We would run the morgue for most of central London.”
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