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Coffin makers could have ‘very quiet summer’ due to stockpiling

The industry is meeting higher demand from funeral directors.

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Declan Harley from Anderson Maguire Funeral Directors checks the empty coffins in the storage room at their offices in Glasgow. Funeral directors in Scotland’s largest city are facing a backlog and on the verge of running out of mortuary space, the head of one family firm has said. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Declan Harley from Anderson Maguire Funeral Directors checks the empty coffins in the storage room at their offices in Glasgow. Funeral directors in Scotland’s largest city are facing a backlog and on the verge of running out of mortuary space, the head of one family firm has said. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Declan Harley from Anderson Maguire Funeral Directors checks the empty coffins in the storage room at their offices in Glasgow. Funeral directors in Scotland’s largest city are facing a backlog and on the verge of running out of mortuary space, the head of one family firm has said. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Coffin manufacturers may “have a very quiet summer” after meeting demand at the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, a trade leader has said.

Alun Tucker, the chief executive of the Funeral Furniture Makers Association (FFMA) which represents the majority of coffin manufacturers, said the industry was currently meeting higher demand from funeral directors.

He told the PA news agency: “They all have good supplies of stocks and with staff working extra hours and overtime, we’re confident that we will meet the requirements as time goes by.

“There is a delay while they increase manufacturing but coffin manufacturers are meeting the requirements at the present time. No one’s panicking at the moment.”

However, Mr Tucker stressed that while coffin orders had gone up and some stockpiling had been seen, it is not known if the increase in coffins will be matched by the number of deaths.

Coronavirus
Funeral directors have placed an increased number of orders of coffins to prepare for a potential increase in deaths, Mr Tucker said (Andrew Milligan/PA)

He said: “We don’t know what’s going to happen down the road…It’s a very low number at the moment.

“There’s obviously a case where funeral directors are buying extra stocks and are stockpiling to a certain extent in preparation for an upsurge in deaths but it could be if the deaths don’t hit those big numbers, coffin manufacturers are going to have a very quiet summer because funeral directors are going to have all of this stock.”

Mr Tucker then compared stocks of coffins to toilet rolls, as neither have an expiry date and could mean coffin production will have to slow later in the year.

He added the coffin making industry has responded to increases in deaths unrelated to pandemics without having supply issues.

Mr Tucker, a former funeral director, added the coronavirus outbreak had presented other challenges to the funeral industry, including the social distancing restrictions at funerals.

Coronavirus
Funerals have now been restricted to immediate family and many churches have closed to prevent coronavirus spread (Joe Giddens/PA)

“One of the sadnesses of people dying at the present time is that they’re not having the funeral they would expect or the funeral they would deserve.

“The talk is of immediate family only attending the service whereas there’s somebody who might normally have a hundred, two hundred people at their funeral and they’re down to just five or six.”

Questions have been repeatedly raised about supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) within the NHS and for frontline health workers.

Mr Tucker said a lack of PPE was a “major problem” for funeral directors who will be responsible for handling the bodies of people who died with Covid-19.

Many funeral directors are having to act on the assumption any death they attend could involve Covid-19 unless the person died in a hospital, where it would have been tested, he added.

He said: “From a funeral director’s point of view, every death they attend in a home or nursing home, they don’t know and they have to take precautions assuming that it is related.”

The FFMA is part of the Deceased Management Advisory Group, which is currently meeting daily to discuss how to handle the outbreak in the funeral profession and liaising with the Government.

PA