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Belfast's Roselawn carries out record 23 cremations every day during coronavirus pandemic


Roselawn crematorium

Roselawn crematorium

Roselawn crematorium

A record number of 23 cremations are now taking place every weekday at Roselawn amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

New figures also show that a further 20 cremations are being undertaken at Northern Ireland's only crematorium every Saturday.

It is understood that some services are being wrapped up in just 20 minutes and, due to the Covid-19 restrictions that are now in place, no family members are permitted to attend.

The crematorium is now operating from 8am until 8pm from Monday to Friday and additional staff are understood to have been redeployed to assist with the recent surge in demand.

A Belfast City Council spokeswoman said the current daily rate of 23 cremations represents an increase of six on the "normal" figure.

Former Lord Mayor of Belfast Jim Rodgers described the figures as "astonishing".

"I don't ever remember there being so many cremations per day," said Mr Rodgers, who has been a councillor for 27 years.

"It brings home the threat that this deadly virus presents to each and every one of us.

"My heart goes out to each individual who has suffered the loss of a loved one in recent times."

Mr Rodgers called for "some kind of recognition for people working on the frontline at Roselawn".

"The crematorium has been getting busier every year but the numbers have recently soared due to the virus," he said.

"The staff are working under enormous pressure and they should be rewarded for the stress and strain they're confronted with every day."

Councillor Tom Haire also said that Roselawn employees "need to know how much they are appreciated".

"The crematorium is under tremendous pressure and staff are working extremely hard in very difficult circumstances," the DUP man said.

"We must come up with a way of saying thank you to them - whether financially or in some other way - because like binmen and the emergency services, they are willing to put themselves on the line to provide the services that are most needed in these critical times we are facing."

A spokeswoman said that Belfast City Council "regrettably took the decision to close the chapel at Roselawn crematorium and associated facilities to mourners on March 23 due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic".

She also confirmed that, while cremations are still being carried out, "unfortunately no family can be in attendance".

The spokeswoman said that the council is "at the moment undertaking around 23 cremations from Monday to Friday", adding: "This normally stands at 17."

She said the crematorium "operates from 8am until 8pm", adding that extra resources had been drafted in to address current demand.

"Some additional staff have been redeployed to the crematorium in order to ensure that staff are trained in relevant roles, enhancing resilience and protecting the service," she said.

"City of Belfast Crematorium is a regional service providing cremation services for Northern Ireland as well as being accessible to people from the Republic of Ireland.

"It is the only facility in Northern Ireland and it is essential that we maintain the ability to operate this facility effectively in the coming months."

She added: "Council wishes to express its deep sympathy to all families who face the passing of a loved one during these very difficult circumstances."

Belfast Telegraph