A temporary mortuary in Leatherhead is holding increasing numbers of the deceased as the impact of the worsening coronavirus pandemic continues to bite in Surrey.

The "huge pressure" hospital mortuaries in Surrey currently find themselves dealing with has forced the increased use of the mortuary and authorities expect this use to increase in the days ahead.

The mortuary is situated on a former military base at Headley Court in Leatherhead, which was converted into a recovery centre last year (The NHS Seacole Centre) to help care for Covid-19 patients in Surrey and ease the strain on hospitals in the region.

It has been in use since the UK's previous peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in April, and is now seeing heightened pressure on its services once again as deaths in the UK associated with coronavirus hit new highs.

Chair of Surrey’s Local Resilience Forum, Steve Owen-Hughes described the situation in further detail:

"Hospital mortuary space is under huge pressure as we see the impact of COVID-related deaths on top of regular winter pressures," he said.

"A temporary mortuary facility has been set up by Surrey’s Local Resilience Forum on the site of the former military hospital at Headley Court in Leatherhead.

"This facility is helping to relieve pressure on hospitals and ensure that bodies are handled appropriately and sensitively.

"Unfortunately. this is the stark reality of COVID, and I would encourage everybody to play their part in helping to stop the spread of this awful virus.

"Please, stay at home as much as possible, to protect our NHS and ultimately save lives," he added.

Surrey County Council Leader Tim Oliver said on Saturday that hospitals in Surrey were "absolutely at breaking point" regarding the strains and pressures brought by Covid-19.

"It's hugely important now that we see some impact from this lockdown and we see those numbers start to drop because the health system is absolutely at breaking point, no question about it," he told Sky News.

A spokesperson for the mortuary said that in the first phase wave of the pandemic (April – June 2020) the temporary mortuary facility had "dealt with 700 deceased."

"Since the 21st of December, the temporary mortuary has dealt with almost 300 deceased (10/01/21) and that figure continues to rise," they added.

"The temporary mortuary has capacity to take 845 deceased. This is in addition to the 600 spaces that are available at hospitals across the county.

"There has been a significant and rapid rise in the number of deaths from Covid-19 across Surrey over recent weeks.

"We currently have about 170 deceased at the temporary mortuary. However, sadly we are predicting that number to rise in a relatively short space of time," the spokesperson continued.

Volunteer teams are helping deal with the storage of the deceased at mortuary, with workers from Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), Surrey Police and Surrey County Council’s Coroner’s Service helping deliver them from hospitals in the county.

According to Office of National Statistics (ONS) data released by Surrey County Council (SCC), there were 8,517 new cases of coronavirus in the county in the seven days up to January 6, for an infection rate per 100,000 people of 712.