Coronavirus: Special body recovery teams set up for those who die at home

Martin Brunt, news correspondent

Special body recovery teams have begun work to deal with suspected coronavirus victims who die in their homes.

Small units of police, fire and health service staff will confirm death and the identity of the dead and remove their bodies to a mortuary.

Known as Pandemic Multi-Agency Response Teams, or PMART, they will be dispatched when victims die outside hospitals and there is a high probability they had COVID-19.

The teams have been set up, initially in London, to relieve pressure on hospitals overwhelmed with coronavirus emergency cases.

Each team consists of a fire service driver, a health service clinician, a police constable and a detective.

The death of a victim will be determined by the clinician, who may be a nurse, a medical student or some other health professional. A death certificate would be issued after review by another medic.

A spokesman for London's Strategic Co-ordination Group said: "The teams are made up of police, fire and health services staff and will verify that a death has occurred, confirm identification of the deceased and ascertain there are no suspicious circumstances.

"They will then make the necessary preparations for the deceased to be taken to a funeral home or mortuary until arrangements can be made for burial or cremation."

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The teams will travel in unmarked vehicles and their work will include wrapping and sealing bodies before removing them to await burial or cremation.

Authorities believe around a third of coronavirus deaths in the capital will occur in the community.