Industry advised to use ‘makeshift’ masks out of ‘bin liners and towels’ amid shortages

Funeral directors are being advised to create “makeshift” face masks out of “towels, bin liners and incontinence pads” by the senior coroner for Lancashire, as they remove bodies of victims of coronavirus, amid the “severe” shortages of protective equipment in the UK.

According to The Guardian, funeral staff have said that they are “increasingly concerned” at the risk of the Covid-19 virus, due to the lack of masks and protective gowns available in the UK.

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In a document sent to funeral directors, Lancashire coroner Dr James Adeley, said: “Police and removal undertakers attending a sudden death where Covid-19 is suspected should before moving the body ensure that the deceased’s mouth and nose are covered.

“This could be as simple as using a towel, bin liner or something like an incontinence pad cut to fit over the mouth and nose.”

Funeral directors have also said the industry is facing a shortage of body bags, which are required when dealing with victims of coronavirus as well as bodies with infectious diseases.

The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (NAFD) warned its members to deal with bodies affected by the virus with caution. 

In advice to its members when PHE had downgraded the protective equipment needed last week, the NAFD said the society was not “comfortable with this”, and warned funeral directors to use  “a mask, double gloves and an apron as PPE” at all times.

“PPE supplies are drastically short. We have requested the Cabinet Office fast-track supplies to funeral homes.”

It added: “If you are limited on masks, use wadding, dressing or bandage to cover the face during the removal. This should reduce the risk to staff from any droplets of contaminated air.”

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