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UK turning mega conference centres into hospitals

Anticipating a surge in the number of Covid-19 patients, the Boris Johnson government has announced the conversion of at least three large conference and exhibition centres into hospitals, equipped to treat at least 4,000 patients each.

The first of the three – the ExCel Centre near Canary Wharf in east London – will open next week. The other two sites are Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre and Manchester Central Conference Centre – both spread over a large area, due to open in mid-April.

“Further such hospitals will follow,” said Simon Stevens, head of the National Health Service in England, at the daily briefing in Downing Street on Friday evening. The ExCel Centre facility is called NHS Nightingale Hospital.

Latest figures show 759 dead and 14,543 cases in the UK. London has the largest number of cases: 4,637; followed by the Midlands with 2,090. Patients who have recovered number 135.

Stevens said: “We have reconfigured hospital services so that 33,000 hospital beds are available to treat further coronavrius patients. It is also why we are taking the extraordinary action to build new hospitals in very short order, starting with the NHS Nightingale hospital.”

Since the issue is not confined to London, he added: “I have given the go-ahead to the building of two further NHS Nightingale hospitals… with further such hospitals to follow.”

Stevens also announced immediate testing of health professionals after facing intense criticism over lack of such testing.

“It is urgently important to test frontline staff who are off sick or are self-isolating. The number of tests carried out will be doubled by the end of next week compared to this week”, Stevens added.

It was revealed on Friday that coronavirus has struck at the heart of the British government, affecting three key individuals leading the response: Prime Minister Boris Johnson, health secretary Matt Hancock and chief medical officer Chris Whitty.

Prince Charles also tested positive earlier this week and has since been in isolation in Scotland.

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