THE Government is making plans for temporary mortuaries in the event that a surge in coronavirus cases leads to a shortage of storage space for bodies.
Senior Department of the Taoiseach official Liz Canavan said the "deeply sensitive issue" is being worked on.
It comes after Independent.ie today reported that undertakers have raised concerns that storage space could come under pressure if there is a significant increase in the number of people who fall victim to the deadly virus.
Ms Canavan said: "We are in the midst of a very serious public health crisis.
"We are still largely in the preparation phase, getting the country ready and putting the necessary infrastructure in place, in particular the medical infrastructure to deal with the surge when it comes.
"As part of this work we are also preparing for the wider consequences of the surge including the deeply sensitive issue of temporary mortuary facilities."
She said a group of senior officials from across government are working together on the matter and they will be "guided and informed by need for compassion and care for families who will be affected."
The fears have been raised by funeral directors directly with Cabinet ministers who are fighting to limit the spread of the virus, which has so far claimed the lives of nine people in Ireland.
There are also concerns among funeral directors over the lack of personal protective equipment for their staff, who will be involved in moving the bodies of people who have died after contracting Covid-19.
Ministers said their local funeral directors have asked them what measures are being put in place to address a sudden surge in deaths due to the virus.
There is a limited amount of space in the country's morgues and the Government is already seeking to establish where temporary facilities could be established.
The lack of storage space for those who have passed away due to the virus has become a serious issue in Italy and Spain, where the pandemic has claimed thousands of lives.
In Spain, an ice rink in Madrid was this week converted into a makeshift morgue.
The Spanish army's emergency military unit has been tasked with delivering caskets and guarding them until bodies are collected by funeral homes for burial or cremation.
Irish funeral directors have told ministers they are worried about the lack of protective wear for their staff when they are handling the deceased who have died from the virus sweeping across Europe.
However, there is a lack of sympathy in some sectors of the Government, with one minister saying: "They charge enough for funerals, they can pay for their own protective clothes."
Another Cabinet minister said: "They're private businesses so we don't have to provide them with equipment."
But concerns over storage space for bodies in the worst-case scenario are being taken seriously by those involved in the Government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Irish Association of Funeral Directors has attended briefings with the HSE on the issues facing their members. The HSE recently issued guidelines to funeral directors on how to conduct their business during the national health emergency.
They were told face masks must be placed over the mouths of the deceased before they are placed into a body bag and transferred to a mortuary.
Family members are to be told not to kiss relatives after they pass away and to wash their hands immediately if they choose to touch the body of the deceased.
In funeral homes, coffins are to remain closed apart from in exceptional circumstances where close relatives have not had an opportunity to see the deceased before they passed away.
The use of books of condolences is to be ended until the emergency is over and people will be asked to offer condolences to those grieving on social media or on RIP.ie.
Relatives and friends of the deceased are also being asked to travel to funerals in separate cars and practise good cough etiquette at the funeral and wash their hands before and after they attend.
Many of us in general practice view the front line of the Covid-19 pandemic as being in households, workplaces, public spaces and community clinics, particularly GP clinics and GP co-operatives.
I moved to the big city lights of Melbourne, Australia, from Cork City in 2018. It has been an exciting time. Over the past two years, I have taken full advantage of all that the city has to offer. However, that has all ended abruptly due to coronavirus.