MP Suggested U.K. Could Put Morgue in Hyde Park if Virus Hits

(Bloomberg) -- Last year, London’s Hyde Park drew tens of thousands of fans for concerts by Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Barbra Streisand. This year, the prospect was raised that authorities may be planning to use it for a more somber purpose if coronavirus takes hold.

“We have contingency plans to open up a morgue in Hyde Park, in tents,” said Nickie Aiken, a councilor for the central London district which includes the open space, once a refuge from plague in the 17th century. “We would run the morgue for most of central London,” she said in an interview.

The idea of a morgue in one of London’s most famous parks prompted coverage in the British media. Later, Aiken -- a former leader of the council -- played down her comment after having a conversation with a local official. “There are no plans to turn Hyde Park into a morgue,” she said. “I’ve had that confirmed by Westminster City Council this evening.”

Westminster council had no immediate comment to make.

The U.K. has so far escaped the worst of the virus -- known as Covid-19 -- since it started spreading from China at the beginning of the year. As of Friday, Britain had recorded a total number of 19 confirmed cases -- suggesting the royal park won’t need to be put to its new use anytime soon.

The message from central government is to avoid panic, while behind the scenes officials are making just-in-case plans for a mass outbreak.

If it does turn into a pandemic, the U.K. is the best country to be in, because “we are so on it for contingency planning,” Aiken, who’s also a Member of Parliament for the ruling Conservative Party, said in an interview on Friday. She’s a rank and file politician who does not speak for the government.

But Aiken said she’s alert to the risk of contagion in the U.K. capital.

“I was on the Tube yesterday going to the City, and I was thinking this is a nightmare,” she said, referring to London’s crowded subway. “In the worst-case scenario, it’s going to be horrendous.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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