Coronavirus: Up to 10 UK sites could become makeshift hospitals

March 25, 2020

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

Information provided by a third 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.

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