England readies Nightingale field hospitals as cases surgeThursday, December 31, 2020
LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — England on Thursday was preparing to reopen its Nightingale field hospitals as a surge in cases of the new strain of coronavirus has put pressure on hospital beds.
A spokesman for the state-run National Health Service said the temporary facilities across England "are being readied to admit patients once again should they be needed".
He said that "in anticipation of pressures rising from the spread of the new variant infection," the authorities asked the NHS to ensure the Nightingale hospital in London was "reactivated and ready to admit patients as needed, and that process is under way".
The hospital is located in a convention centre in east London.
Seven Nightingale hospitals were opened with fanfare across England during the first wave of the virus at an estimated cost of £220 million, to provide extra beds for patients with coronavirus.
Named after one of the pioneers of nursing, Florence Nightingale, some are in exhibition centres. Other parts of the UK built similar facilities.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Times Radio that the military, which helped to build them, "stands ready" to help staff the hospitals if the NHS runs out of critical care beds.
The Daily Telegraph reported on Monday that the London Nightingale hospital had no patients and had been stripped of beds and ventilators, while the temporary hospitals in two other cities were empty.
NHS England responded by saying the London hospital was on "standby" and would be available if needed.
According to the latest government data, the United Kingdom had 23,771 hospitalised virus patients as of Monday.
The UK recorded 50,023 new cases on Wednesday, more than 12,000 of which were in London.
The number of cases in the UK in the last seven days rose 20 per cent compared to the previous week.
NHS England said there were 22,713 beds occupied by confirmed cases in England on Wednesday.
Three-quarters of England's population are currently under the harshest anti-virus restrictions and ordered to stay at home except for essential trips.
The UK has recorded 2.4 million virus cases and 72,548 deaths.
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