THE owner of a funeral business has spoken of the devastating impact of the pandemic - with £50,000 spent on fridges to store the ever-increasing number of bodies.

Mary Hudson-Harris, joint proprietor of Carlisle-based family funeral director firm George Hudson & Sons Ltd, says demand for their services has rocketed due to coronavirus.

After being warned by Public Health England in March about the potential threat they might face from handling the bodies of people who had died with coronavirus, things soon began to escalate.

“We started to get more and more phone calls regarding people with Covid. Seventy per cent of the families we are dealing with their deceased had Covid (at the time of death),” explained Mary.

“The weekend before last was the worst weekend, we lost three people we knew in less than 24 hours. One was a 39-year-old guy who’s got children (he had no underlying health conditions).

“We get so many different people from different age groups, worse than it was in March.”

Coronavirus restrictions have also put an end to the normal funeral service, with families having to adapt to things like social distancing and restricted funeral numbers.

“We are trying to stay positive for families but we can’t give our usual face-to-face care,” continued Mary.

“We are doing everything we can, even one thing to make a difference to families.”

Yesterday Mary’s husband and the firm’s joint proprietor circled the Tesco car park so the former colleagues of the deceased could pay their respects.

“We are on call 24-7, 365 days a year,” said Mary. “From eight in the morning the phone doesn’t stop going off. It is absolutely relentless.”

Mary says the situation has been made more difficult by a reluctance people have to talk about the very definition of a pandemic.

“People don’t like to talk about death,” she explained. “People don’t say ‘are you okay’ or ‘are you busy’. Years ago they did.

“People don’t want to know at the moment, which is obviously because everyone is on their knees.

“I think people forget we are seeing the very very worst possible part of the pandemic. We are the busiest we have ever been.”

Such is the impact of the pandemic, Mary and her family have been working in separate parts of their home so if one person catches the virus, the business can still function.

Mary says the mental health effects of coronavirus will be felt by her and her family long into the future.

She says positive feedback received from families of the deceased has made a massive difference though.

Mary has now implored people to follow the rules after seeing the effects of the virus firsthand.

“People really need to think about the consequences of their actions,” she said.