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Coronavirus: ExCeL to be turned into temporary hospital

PUBLISHED: 16:57 24 March 2020 | UPDATED: 18:00 24 March 2020

The ExCeL is set to become a temporary hospital. Picture: Ken Mears

The ExCeL is set to become a temporary hospital. Picture: Ken Mears

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The ExCeL is going to be turned into a temporary hospital as the UK battles the coronavirus crisis, the health secretary has confirmed.

Matt Hancock said the venue - to be known as the NHS Nightingale hospital - would open with the capacity for 4,000 patients from next week.

He said: “We will, next week, open a new hospital - a temporary hospital - the NHS Nightingale hospital at the ExCeL centre in London.

“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 so that everyone can get the support that they need.”

Jeremy Rees, the chief executive of ExCeL, said that the venue’s team will “work with the government and relevant authorites to support their efforts”.

He added: “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.

“We are able to accommodate the increasing demand for hospital beds and will work with the NHS to facilitate this request.”

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During the daily government briefing, Mr Hancock called for 250,000 volunteers to assist with the national effort to tackle coronavirus, help the NHS and support the vulnerable.

He also announced that more than 35,000 extra NHS staff would be joining the fight against the virus, including retired doctors and nurses returning to the service and final year students joining the frontline.

Mr Hancock said: “We are seeking a quarter of a million volunteers, people in good health to help the NHS, for shopping, for the delivery of medicines and to support those who are shielding to protect their own health.”

Mr Hancock said 11,788 recently retired NHS staff had responded to the call to return to the service.

They included 2,660 doctors, more than 2,500 pharmacists and other staff and 6,147 nurses.

“I pay tribute to each and every one of those who is returning to the NHS at its hour of need,” Mr Hancock said.

Some 5,500 final-year medics and 18,700 final-year student nurses would “move to the frontline” next week.

The health secretary also said that 7.5 million pieces of protective equipment, including facemasks, had been shipped out in the last 24 hours.

A hotline would allow NHS and care staff to request personal protective equipment if they did not have it.

The armed forces have been involved in the logistics and Mr Hancock said it had been “literally a military effort to get these millions of pieces of kit out to people”.

He added: “If people are working on the front line to look after us, it’s vital that we look after them.”

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