MINISTERS have been urged to have thousands of cardboard coffins ready for mass deaths should swine flu take a turn for the worse.
Scottish Government guidance was published yesterday looking at how to cope with large-scale death from catastrophic events, disease and terrorist attacks.
The document – Guidance on Dealing with Mass Fatalities in Scotland – was published amid concern that swine flu, which has so far been relatively mild compared to seasonal flu, could mutate and become much more virulent.
The guidance recommends the use of cardboard coffins and refrigeration centres to hold bodies. It also urges that mass graves should not be used.
It came as thousands of nurses and midwives whose registration has lapsed were being contacted to help cope with any surge in the swine-flu pandemic. Letters are being sent to about 10,000 people in Scotland, once registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to work in the UK.
To re-register, the nurse or midwife must have worked over the past five years for a minimum of 750 hours. Letters will go to 90,000 people in the UK. In Scotland this includes 7,695 nurses, 148 midwives and 1,686 people with dual qualification.
NMC chief executive and registrar Kathy George said they were writing to more than 90,000 nurses and midwives whose registration has lapsed in the last four years "encouraging" them to consider re-applying.
Labour health spokesman Dr Richard Simpson MSP said it was "absolutely vital" the time available was used to prepare for a potential second wave of flu cases. He said: "In a worst-case scenario, GPs could be dealing with over 5,000 extra cases per week."