As the United Kingdom battles a fatal second wave of COVID-19, an Australian working in London’s largest mortuary has warned those back home just how deadly complacency can be.
Rose Carbon, a former Brisbane resident who now works as a mortuary assistant at a major southwest London hospital quickly running out of space as the death toll rises, said her team was “exhausted”.
The United Kingdom recorded its deadliest day since the start of the pandemic on Wednesday with 1564 deaths, while an average of 53,000 new cases are confirmed daily.
The total death toll now exceeds 88,590 and is the highest fatality rate in Europe. More than 20,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the past 30 days alone.
In comparison, 909 Australians have died since the beginning of the pandemic, and less than 30,000 cases have been recorded.
At the hospital where Ms Carbon works, temporary mortuaries have been set up to cope with the rising fatalities, but they too are quickly approaching capacity.
“People here are working harder than they ever have before,” Ms Carbon told NCA NewsWire.
“In the first wave, we said we couldn’t do this again; it’s so awful to be a part of.
“But this is 100 times worse than it was (during the first wave).”
Ms Carbon said it was extremely frustrating to watch so many UK residents become complacent, resulting in the spike in case numbers and ultimately more bodies in her mortuary.
“People don’t take it seriously (anymore),” she said.
“They don’t understand. This virus is so unpredictable. You can have it and be spreading it and not even realise.
“Complacency is very deadly.”
As the situation worsens in the UK, Ms Carbon said Australians should take it as a warning.
“If you look at the stats of when Melbourne went into lockdown … of course that was incredibly tough, but it worked,” she said.
“If you remove physical contact, you’re more likely to eradicate it quicker.
“You see examples like New Zealand. They’ve pretty much eradicated it by adhering to government advice … they listened to medical experts.
“If every single person in the UK adhered to government guidelines, we would get rid of this so much quicker.”
Ms Carbon said mortuaries around the country, and the National Health Service as a whole, were being “run into the ground” as facilities approach maximum capacity.
“It’s exhausting … We’re coming in on weekends, we’re staying back late just to keep on top of everything,” she said.
While an average day before the pandemic meant Ms Carbon was assisting with post-mortems, working with the coroner and other hospital staff, and contacting bereavement services, COVID-19 has added an unprecedented level of work.
“There are so many more deaths, and so much more infection control on top of that,” she said.
“We’re under an immense amount of pressure. We had a heavy day before the pandemic, but this second wave is so much worse than the first, and not enough people realise that.”
Ms Carbon said the dramatic spike in the number of COVID deaths at her hospital not only meant the mortuary was running out of space, but it was impeding on grieving.
“What we would usually do is offer a service where people can come and view their loved ones … It’s a crucial part in the grieving process,” she said.
“We’re not able to facilitate that anymore. That’s so upsetting, to the families and to us. We’re in this line of work for a reason, we have compassion.
“These people (who passed away) are someone’s loved ones. They’re not just figures in the newspaper, that’s someone’s life that has become extinct.”
Ms Carbon said the fatality rate from the second wave is so intense, funeral homes were becoming backed up, delaying the grieving process by at least three weeks as the entire industry struggled to keep up with the sheer magnitude.
“People cannot grieve properly, and cemeteries and crematoriums can’t keep up with the demand,” Ms Carbon said.
“That’s very intense. You get delayed grief.”