Around 10 more UK sites could become makeshift hospitals

Officials are looking to convert around 10 more sites across the country into makeshift coronavirus hospitals similar to the ExCel exhibition centre in London, Sky News understands.

Military planners are already examining five locations in support of the Department of Health and Social Care, a Whitehall source said.

The London ExCel centre that may be turned into a makeshift NHS Hospital and critical care unit to cope with the Coronavirus pandemic. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday March 24, 2020. Photo credit should read: Ian West/PA Wire
Image: The London ExCel centre will have two wards, each with the capacity for 2,000 beds

They would not confirm any of the areas, but said they would likely include major cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle.

A second source with knowledge of government planning for the COVID-19 pandemic said the aim was to convert between eight to 10 sites into hospital facilities.

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However the source said they would not be as large as the ExCel conversion, which will see the creation of two wards, each with the capacity for 2,000 beds.

A third source said the number was set to be between 10 and 13 – though he described the planned facilities as annexes to local hospitals.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, revealed on Tuesday that the exhibition hall in east London would open next week as the renamed NHS Nightingale Hospital.

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The facility will initially have capacity for about 500 patients, and will be staffed by NHS and military medics.

Information provided by a fourth source revealed that military planners could be asked to look for 10 “Excel-type” hospital sites across the country.

The Ministry of Defence last week said it was creating a COVID-19 Support Force to help the government in its response to the pandemic.

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Up to 20,000 military personnel are on standby to assist.

Among the tasks they are already looking into is how to help the NHS generate more hospital bed capacity amid concerns about the anticipated influx of patients as the outbreak worsens.