FIREFIGHTERS across Hampshire are preparing to retrieve bodies during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As former ambulance staff and police officers were urged to come back to the front line, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service have now agreed to also deliver food and medicine, and drive ambulances.

More than 150 coronavirus hospital patients have now died across Hampshire, according to the latest data.

Figures released by the NHS have revealed that the total number of deaths in Hampshire have risen from 148 to 156 in 24 hours - a total of eight more deaths.

Across the UK, 6,483 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus.

The new firefighter scheme will now be part of a new plan agreed by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), fire chiefs and employers.

This means firefighters will be able to deliver essential items such as food to vulnerable people, drive ambulances and assist ambulance staff, and collect bodies in the event of mass casualties.

Although one Hampshire firefighter said they “hadn’t heard anything yet”, the service revealed they are welcoming the agreement as it is “needed to deal with these unprecedented circumstances”.

The plans will involve the work of emergency services, local authorities, the NHS, the Environment Agency and others.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Steve Apter said: “Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service stand ready to help and support our partners across the Local Resilience Forum.

“We are proud of the hard work and professionalism of our amazing crews and staff helping to make life safer in any way we can.”

The plan is in place to run for two months but can be extended if necessary and could affect 48,000 firefighters and emergency control staff across the country.

It comes as the Metropolitan Police Service and London Ambulance Service urged former workers to return to the service or come out of retirement.

Steve added: “We already work closely with partners and unions and we welcome this groundbreaking agreement needed to deal with these unprecedented circumstances.”

He also urged the public to follow government guidance to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Emergency services are among those whose staff have gone off sick with Covid-19 or who have employees in isolation.