By Orville Williams
Despite the spike in Covid-19-related deaths over the past month, the refrigerated unit at the old Holberton Hospital meant to supplement the storage of bodies has still not been required for use, according to the government.
The unit was acquired and placed at the site late last month, following warnings from the funeral homes that they were nearing or were already at full capacity. According to Medical Director at the Sir Lester Bird Medical Center (SLBMC), Dr Albert Duncan, the major contributors to that challenge were bodies that required autopsies and the strain to fulfil those requests.
He disclosed then, that efforts were being made to clear the backlog which allowed the funeral homes a bit more space and therefore rendered the refrigerated unit unnecessary, at least for the time being.
Now, it is not clear whether the unit was meant to assist solely with the storage of non-Covid-related bodies, Covid-related bodies or a mixture of both, but it appeared it might have had to do with the spike in Covid-related deaths during September.
The island’s Covid-related death count for September was approximately 30, though many of the fatalities were reported to be unvaccinated persons and persons with underlying health issues.
It still generated plenty concern among residents, with many fearful that the spread of the virus was getting to an uncontrollable stage. According to unverified reports, a decent number of the persons who got vaccinated in and around that time did so out of fear.
Nevertheless, the strain on the funeral homes seems to have subsided and late this week Information Minister Melford Nicholas told the media that the refrigerated unit is still collecting dust.
“[Acquiring the unit] was preparatory. The funeral homes had certainly indicated they were nearing capacity and so we brought in additional capacity.
“[However], it has not been reported to the Cabinet — certainly I’m not aware — that there’s been a single [deceased] person that has been put into the refrigerated container,” he said.
The country’s collective hopes will, no doubt, be that the situation never reaches a point where the storage unit needs to be used, but the number of Covid-related deaths continues to increase.
Just yesterday, the SLBMC announced the death of four more patients, between Wednesday and Friday, who had tested positive for the virus.