Coronavirus: Bodies 'may not be collected' without PPE

By Matthew Murray
BBC News

Media caption,
Funeral director Gareth Jenkins said he was using personal protective equipment (PPE) made by his sister

A lack of PPE may prevent bodies of coronavirus victims being collected, according to a group representing funeral directors.

The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors said its members were struggling to get sufficient supplies of PPE.

The group's chief executive, Terry Tennens, said funeral directors were "forgotten" key workers.

The Welsh Government said it was aware of the issues around PPE.

Mr Tennens said: "It's a major concern but if you can't fulfil the safe removal of the deceased, there's a real serious problem.

"If our members end up falling sick, it could mean funeral homes will close if they haven't got fit staff. This could result in them being unable to pick up the bodies of the deceased."

Image caption,
Terry Tennens said funeral directors may not have the staff or the equipment to pick up dead bodies

Mr Tennens said resilience forums were still supplying equipment, but supplies were running low and it was becoming a "scramble".

"Funeral directors understandably haven't wanted to take attention away from front-line NHS staff in the struggle to get adequate PPE supplies but nonetheless they are part of the emergency response to this crisis and have been treated like a forgotten service," he added.

UK government guidelines advise funeral directors, among other professionals, should wear masks, gloves, eye protection and plastic aprons when dealing with someone who may have died with coronavirus.

Image caption,
Gareth Jenkins said the amount of PPE needed has gone to "extremes"

Gareth Jenkins, a funeral director from Baglan, Neath Port Talbot, said his sister was making PPE for him and his staff.

"My sister usually makes curtains but because she's had to close her business, Gaynor is now making our PPE," he said.

"We've been so badly affected by it that we've had to do this.

"We've had lots of meeting with the staff and directives from the government and council. We usually have a high level of PPE but now we've gone to extremes.

"We used to wear paper overalls now we've been told it has to be waterproof.

"We've had masks and gloves from the council but that supply is running out."

The Welsh Government said: "We are aware of some issues relating to the distribution of PPE for funeral directors and are working to resolve them as soon as possible."