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London's ExCel Centre being converted into makeshift hospital to deal with coronavirus patients

London's ExCel Centre is being converted to a makeshift hospital. Credit: PA

London’s ExCel Centre will open as a makeshift hospital from next week to help deal with the increased pressures on the NHS from coronavirus.

The Ministry of Defence are helping to set up the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital at the ExCel, while is expected to have around 4,000 beds in two separate wards.

Speaking at the daily Government press conference, Mr Hancock 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."

More centres like the ExCel are being identified as possible makeshift hospitals if needed.

Military planners visited the 70,000 visitor capacity centre in east London’s Docklands on Sunday to see how the site could be utilised.

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A department spokesman said: “To assist NHS England to prepare for a number of scenarios as the coronavirus outbreak unfolds, a team of military planners visited the ExCel centre in London to determine how the centre might benefit the NHS response to the outbreak.”

The event halls at ExCeL London feature more than 87,000 square metres of space and capacity for more than 68,000 visitors, in addition to several smaller areas within the venue.

The convention centre has a near 70,000 visitor capacity. Credit: PA

The centre hosts several events including London Bridal Fashion Week, MCM Comic Con, and the Ucas Higher Education Exhibition, many of which attract tens of thousands of people and have been postponed due to the outbreak.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman previously said much of the help the military would be providing during the crisis was logistical.

Asked if field hospitals would be set up, as elsewhere in Europe, the spokesman said: “We talked about some of the areas they can help with such as providing help to unload PPE (personal protective equipment) and get that to hospitals and also to provide help supporting some of the most vulnerable.

Mr Hancock said a new temporary hospital known as the NHS Nightingale would be set up at the ExCel Centre. Credit: PA

“The armed forces, as always, stand ready to help in any way that’s required.”

When asked if there were any plans to implement field hospitals, the spokesman said: “Not something that I’m aware of but they stand ready to help.”

The visit comes as it was announced 422 people have died in British hospitals after testing positive for the virus and after efforts to bring back recently retired medical professionals to help tackle the pandemic.

The ExCel Centre is being used as a 'field hospital'. Credit: PA

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “NHS staff are working round the clock gearing up to deal with this unprecedented global health threat.

“As well as ramping up treatment capacity across all NHS hospitals, we’re getting on with other options too, including new facilities as well as a landmark deal with private hospitals which has put 20,000 staff, 8,000 beds and 1,200 ventilators at our disposal.

“But it remains absolutely vital that this huge mobilisation by the NHS is matched by action from the public, which means following medical advice to the letter – please stay at home to save lives.”

The NHS is preparing to deal with more Covid-19 cases. Credit: PA

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know