A funeral director is giving Covid tests to dead people to determine whether they have the virus for a study.
The swab tests, being done on select people with the permission of their family, determine whether the presence of the virus is there after they died.
The test is being carried out by swabbing the nose and throat of the deceased.
A.W. Lymn, one of the East Midlands largest funeral directors in Nottinghamshire, is one of the first in the country to start the data collection process.
Director and fourth generation of the family business, Jackie Lymn Rose, told Nottinghamshire Live A.W Lymn was proud to be assisting Public Health England with the scheme and hopeful other funeral directors would follow suit.
The family business, which has served the bereaved of Nottinghamshire for more than 100 years, has been granted a licence by the Human Tissue Authority to partake in the study.
Ms Rose said: “The roll-out of this pilot scheme to detect the presence of the virus in the community comes at a critical time in the UK’s journey ‘back to normal’, as lockdown restrictions are gradually starting to be lifted and social interactions increase.
“Despite the ongoing success of the vaccination programme, the Government has urged the public to remain cautious and to continue to do all it can to prevent transmission of the virus – and the message is clear, we aren’t out of the woods yet by any means.
“The swabbing of the deceased is a straight-forward way of gathering more information about the virus in the community and keeping a handle on its presence.
“That said, our priority is always, as ever, our clients and their wishes and we have strict and clear protocols in place about swabbing.
“In all eligible cases – that is, where a death has not occurred in hospital, has not been referred to the coroner and has happened within five days of being able to obtain a swab – we first and foremost discuss the question with the family. If they don’t want to proceed, we don’t take the swab.
“The cause of death, as determined on the Medical Certificate, as issued by the patient’s GP, will not be compromised or amended by the outcome of the swab analysis.
“Personal information about the deceased based on gender and ethnicity is collected (although may be withheld) to determine if such factors have a bearing.
“Families are advised that they can withdraw permission from the trial at any stage.
“If they are in agreement, a consent form is completed and the swab is taken by one of our trained and experienced embalmers. The swab is then sent to PHE.”
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Communication is directly between PHE and the family member or nominated person from whom permission was originally sought and granted. Any time during the process permission can be withdrawn by the appointed person.
Currently, the licence permits swabs to be taken only at the business’s Nottingham headquarters in Sneinton, and at its sites in Mansfield Woodhouse and Derby, in a designated area by a designated member of staff.
Jackie added: “We’ve seen some take up so far and we predict that the permissions will increase over time as this process becomes normalised.
“I believe it is crucial that we do all we can to gather information about this virus – and that we don’t lose sight of the risks and dangers it poses particularly to older people – as we move out of lockdown.”