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Convention centres provide vital capacity for under-pressure hospitals

ExCeL London is to become an emergency hospital, NHS Nightingale, as the UK conference and exhibition centre gets ready to help with an expected surge in coronavirus patients.

There will be an initial 500 beds, rising to an expected 4,000, as the new hospital gets ready to treat coronavirus patients within days.

Jeremy Rees, CEO, ExCeL London, said: “Our country is facing the largest national emergency for a generation and our thoughts and sympathies are with those who are personally affected by
this situation. It is crucial that everyone plays their part in the national effort, working with the Government to combat the spread of the coronavirus and save lives.”

He added: “We are proud to be able to accommodate the increasing demand for hospital beds and will work with the NHS to facilitate this request. The team at ExCeL London will ensure that we work with the Government and relevant authorities to support their efforts in seeing the British people and the UK through this unprecedented crisis.”

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said at a news conference on Tuesday, said: “The NHS Nightingale hospital will comprise two wards each of 2,000 people. With the help of the military and with NHS clinicians, we will make sure that we have the capacity that we need.”

It is not the first time a major convention centre to be used to treat coronavirus patients.

China’s Wuhan International Exhibition Center was converted into a 1,000 bed makeshift hospital to treat patients.

And in New York, officials are busy converting the Javits Convention Center into a temporary facility with 2,000 beds.

NYC governor Andrew Cuomo said: “I want to thank Alan Steele, who runs this convention center,” said Cuomo flanked by officers from the US Homeland Security, the US Navy, and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“He has put on many shows before, and his team is very adaptable, but this is the first time they have ever built a hospital inside the Javits Center.”

Elsewhere hotels, bereft of guests, have volunteered rooms in the fight against coronavirus.

Hilton, Holiday Inn and Best Western Great Britain are some of the hotel chains in the UK currently in talks with the government about rooms given to vulnerable groups and NHS staff.

Best Western hotel in south London is reportedly being turned into a hospital support site this week, with every bedroom for medical staff and at-risk patients. The group is the UK’s biggest independent hotel chain, with 270 properties.