Britain’s second crisis hospital: Former IBM factory near Glasgow is offered to NHS Scotland in battle against coronavirus as London’s ExCel Centre is kitted out with 4,000 beds and two morgues

  • Military planners working with NHS to create hospital at London ExCel to accommodate influx of patients
  • National Exhibition Centre (NEC) near Birmingham, ‘stands ready’ to help the NHS ‘with immediate effect’
  • ExCel centre will become NHS Nightingale Hospital, with 4,000 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen 
  • Move aimed at treating thousands of coronavirus patients as regular hospitals come under greater pressure
  • NHS worker warned that the health service was heading into a ‘war zone’ as the ‘tsunami’ of the pandemic hits
  • Sobering footage recorded by worker inside the centre revealed that there would be two on-site morgues  
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

The former IBM factory near Glasgow has become Britain’s second crisis hospital as the building has been offered to NHS Scotland in the battle against coronavirus.

It comes as the ExCel Centre in Newham, East London, was kitted out with 4,000 beds and two morgues amid the Covid-19 crisis. 

Britain’s major entertainment venues also ‘stand ready’ to be transformed into field hospitals to cope with an influx of coronavirus patients. 

Pictured: The venues that are being enlisted to function as hospitals for the NHS as the country battles the coronavirus 

Pictured: The former IBM factory near Glasgow which is being transformed into a hospital after being offered up to NHS Scotland as the nation fights coronavirus

The sprawling space near Glasgow is the latest building to be offered up to the NHS as workers prepare to treat coronavirus patients across the country 

The National Exhibition Centre (NEC), close to Birmingham Airport, has 18 exhibition halls and plays host to dozens of high-profile conferences and shows each year, including Crufts.

Bosses at the venue have said they ‘stand ready’ to help the NHS ‘with immediate effect’ if the call comes from the Government.

And Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, said numerous sites were being considered north of the border ‘on the cusp of rapid escalation’. 

Last night footage revealed the ExCel Centre’s transformation into a hospital as nearby City Airport closes to civilian flights so that military planes can fly in and out.

A worker shared sobering video from inside the exhibition hall where work started yesterday as the Ministry of Defence and NHS create the new hospital from scratch to accommodate rising numbers of Covid-19 patients.

The exhibition centre in east London will become the NHS Nightingale Hospital, with ventilators and oxygen at every bedside and should be up and running by Saturday, April 4. Military medics will also be working to treat patients on the site.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers – which represents care trusts – said that, while critical care capacity has been expanded between five and seven times, hospital bosses are seeing a ‘continuous tsunami’ of demand.

Mr Hopson said that, while extra capacity is being brought in – including 4,000 beds at the ExCel centre in London’s Docklands – hospital chief executives are concerned that it will be used up ‘very, very quickly’. 

A tank of liquid oxygen is lifted from a low loader to be installed at the ExCeL London exhibition centre

A driver shared these pictures of the beds which will fill the NHS Nightingale Field Hospital 

Tankers of liquid oxygen at the site in east London, amid fears Britain could be in short supply 

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said 500 of the additional 4,000 beds created in the NHS Nightingale Hospital being set up in London’s ExCeL centre will be available for use next week

Builders are working around the clock to get the two hospital wards, and mortuaries, ready as soon as possible 

A London Ambulance service vehicle waits on a ramp at the ExCel centre today as thousands of emergency workers across the UK join the fight against the virus 

Dozens of workers at the ExCel are preparing the site in readiness for thousands of patients affected by Covid-19

Military Personnel arriving at the ExCel centre in East London today as the emergency hospital preparations get underway

Venues up and down the country – including the ExCel Centre in London, Manchester Arena, and Birmingham NEC, are set to become field hospitals 

An Army truck arrives at the ExCel Centre this morning as it becomes the Nightingale Hospital

The National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, where bosses say they ‘stand ready’ to help the NHS ‘with immediate effect’ if the call comes from the Government

Lorries delivering oxygen to the ExCel centre, London, which is being made into a temporary hospital – the NHS Nightingale hospital, comprising of two wards, each of 2,000 people, to help tackle coronavirus

Army Reserve troops are mobilised in fight against coronavirus 

The Army Reserve – Britain’s active volunteer force – is mobilising to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

At least 10,000 volunteer soldiers will start a range of national operations, including helping supply NHS hospitals, it is understood. 

Volunteers for what used to be known as the Territorial Army were contacted on Sunday night.

Members were told to prepare to mobilise within 48 hours via text message or email.

The MoD placed the Reservists and an additional 10,000 full-time soldiers on standby last week.

They have now been deployed following the Prime Minister’s address on Monday.

The volunteers will deliver personal protective equipment around the country, which is essential to protecting doctors and nurses from the coronavirus.

Others have started training in driving oxygen tankers.

Army staff are also giving advice and support to public services and local authorities in their response to the coronavirus.

The Reserves have formed a major part of what is being dubbed the Covid Support Force.

It is thought there are around 35,000 Reservists around the country, many of whom have been mobilised.

They regularly assist the main army in a variety of major operations at home and abroad. 

As Britain started its third day of mass self-isolation today, it also emerged: 

  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak will finally today unveil a coronavirus bailout for millions of stricken self-employed workers.
  • One of the government’s top advisers said the UK’s epidemic will get worse before it gets better but could peak by Easter. 
  • Dyson has been handed an order of 10,000 ventilators from the Government – as long as the machines pass early tests. 
  • Retailer Boots begged people not to turn up demanding tests because it has yet to receive any.
  • Royal aides tried to trace anyone Prince Charles has met in the last fortnight after he tested positive for the disease.
  •  The latest coronavirus figures for the UK showed 9,529 positive tests and a death toll of 465.  

In a statement, NEC Group chief executive Paul Thandi said: ‘As a cornerstone of the local community, we are committed to playing our part in ensuring the health and wellbeing of everyone in our area.

‘As such, we stand ready and willing to help our emergency services – especially at a time like this.

‘The NEC is well equipped to be used as a support base if such need arises so please be assured, that if we are requested to do so, we can action this with immediate effect.

‘We are and have been in constant communication with the local NHS Trust, police and fire service, and the services are fully aware of the capabilities of the venue.

‘We will do our utmost to support the effort in combating the virus.’ 

A worker yesterday posted video on social media showing the main arena of the 100-acre waterside ExCel site, which will become a hospital ward spanning one kilometre. 

In his clip, he warns viewers: ‘To be fair, I didn’t take this virus very seriously until I saw this this morning. There will be two morgues here. If you’re not taking it seriously like I wasn’t you really need to start. Because they’re preparing for a high death toll here.’ 

Just two miles away across the River, London City Airport has suspended all private and commercial flights to support the national effort. It will now be used by the government, with the RAF seen using it for training yesterday.

Soldiers in fatigues were spotted at the exhibition and conference centre’s loading bays in east London’s former Royal Victoria Docks site this morning, while a number of large vans and forklift trucks were also seen going onto the site.

The move – similar to the creation of the 1,000-bed field hospital seen in Wuhan, China, earlier in the crisis – is aimed at treating thousands of coronavirus patients as regular hospitals come under greater pressure. 

Converting the ExCeL London into a pop-up hospital to treat the country’s sick during the coronavirus outbreak is a huge logistical operation – but one the military is prepared for, a retired British general has said. 

There was little other sign of the mammoth transformation being under way as onlookers stopped by the ExCeL ahead of the hospital treating its first patients from next week.

Major General Timothy Cross, who ran Nato’s emergency relief operation in Kosovo and Macedonia in the 1990s, said it was a ‘big process’ to create a field hospital, but said the military was used to it.

The venue – once used for concerts and public events – is quickly being transformed into an emergency hospital 

The exhibition centre in East London will become the NHS Nightingale Hospital, with ventilators and oxygen at every bedside

Military medics will also be working to treat patients on the site, which should be operating by April 4

Pictured: Military personnel at the ExCel as they create a hospital to prepare for a ‘tsunami’ of coronavirus cases in the capital 

Pictured: Plans for the hospital at the ExCel centre in East London, where a mortuary is being built to cope with the outbreak

Meanwhile, the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) near Birmingham has said it ‘stands ready’ amid expectations more temporary field hospitals could be set-up during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Pictured: How the centre in Newham, East London, is being transformed into a hospital amid the coronavirus pandemic

Pictured: A Royal Air Force C-130 Super Hercules Transport Plane Lands at London City Airport during the ongoing Shutdown throughout the country

Dozens of military personnel are working inside the centre, to transform in time to help people affected by the deadly virus 

St John Ambulance staff and personnel in military fatigues seen inside the ExCeL London exhibition centre

Just across the River, London City Airport has suspended all private and commercial flights to support the national effort. It will now be used by the government, with Armed Forces personnel seen using it earlier in the week

The move – similar to the creation of the 1,000-bed field hospital seen in Wuhan, China, earlier in the crisis – is aimed at treating thousands of coronavirus patients as regular hospitals come under greater pressure. Pictured, workers on site this morning

Men in military uniforms being shown around the ExCeL London, which is being converted into the NHS Nightingale field hospital, with its twin hangars each taking 2,000 sick and seriously ill Covid-19 patients 

Workers carry fences at the Excel exhibition centre in London. It should be up and running by Saturday, April 4

Construction workers work near the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands this morning, as work starts on the new hospital 

A worker on the grounds at the ExCel covered up in a face mark to begin work this morning

St John Ambulance staff were also seen leaving the Excel exhibition centre in London this morning 

Coronavirus tracker app suggests more than six million people in UK could be infected

An app tracking people’s coronavirus symptoms in their own homes has revealed that more than 6.6million people in the UK could have had the infection already.

The COVID Symptom Tracker, created by scientists at King’s College London, was downloaded around 650,000 times in the first 24 hours after it launched on Tuesday.

By today it had been signed up to by 1.25million people and has become the third most popular download in the UK’s App Store, with some 50,000 new users per hour.

Analysis of the first 650,000 users found that 10 per cent of them have had the symptoms of the coronavirus, which causes fever, coughing and tiredness.

Health authorities in the UK aren’t testing anyone for the virus unless they’re in hospital so the app could be one of the clearest pictures of how many people are ill.

If its infection rate of one in every 10 people is applied to the UK’s population of 66million, that could mean 6.6m or more have already had the illness which has sent the world into hiding.

Members of the military are part of the Covid-19 support force which will next week open and run the NHS Nightingale hospital, with capacity to treat 4,000 coronavirus patients across two super wards.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, Maj Gen Cross said: ‘What you’ve got in the ExCeL centre is a large, open space with power, lighting, water, sanitation, good accessibility but also obviously the ability to isolate.

‘That’s the sort of thing one’s looking for deploying on operations in various places around the world.

‘It’s a big process, but there’s a process for setting it all up.’

The NEC in Birmingham said it also ‘stands ready’ and is ‘well equipped’ to become a temporary hospital after reports suggested the site was another location being considered by the Government.

There are currently three regular medical field hospitals across England, where military personnel work alongside NHS staff.

These are at Keogh Barracks in Aldershot, Strensall in North Yorkshire, and Fort Blockhouse in Gosport.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: ‘Our military planners and engineers are working hand-in-hand with the NHS to support their development of the NHS Nightingale Hospital. 

‘The Armed Forces have already been distributing personal protective equipment to meet the increased demand and we stand ready to assist further in any capacity needed. 

‘The NHS and our Armed Forces are both world leaders in their fields, and this ambitious project is just one example of what can be achieved when they come together to help the nation.’ 

London City Airport has suspended all commercial and private flights from tonight until the end of April amid plummeting passenger numbers during the coronavirus outbreak.

The airport said in a statement: ‘Following the Government’s latest instructions in response to the coronavirus outbreak, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to temporarily suspend all commercial and private flights from the airport.

‘At this point in this fast moving and unprecedented situation, we think this is the responsible thing to do for the safety and well-being of our staff, passengers and everyone associated with the airport.’

The airport added: ‘We have offered the use of London’s most central airport to the Government in case it can be used by the emergency services or other agencies to support the national effort to combat the outbreak of this virus and provide care to people in need.’

Police introduce coronavirus CHECKPOINTS on roads and order neighbours to report ‘large’ gatherings as 8% of Britons are STILL flouting lockdown with house parties, barbecues and ‘non-essential’ shopping 

Police are today being told how to disperse groups of people. Pictured is a PCSO breaking up a game of football between youths in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside

Police have today started to stop cars to demand to know where people are going and decide if their journeys are ‘essential’ as they enforce Boris Johnson’s coronavirus lockdown after a shock poll showed millions of Brits are breaking the rules. 

North Yorkshire Police said it will now be using unannounced checkpoints to stop vehicles and order drivers to divulge details of their journeys with Devon doing the same as the Home Office prepares to announce new sweeping powers for officers to help them break up public gatherings.

Those powers are likely to include the ‘last resort’ ability to force people to go home if they fail to listen to police direction or take notice of a £30 fine. 

Police patrols have also started to stop train passengers in Swansea to make sure their travel is ‘essential’. 

The use of travel checks is likely to spark fierce criticism from civil liberties groups with police officers now seemingly being tasked with deciding how important someone’s journey is amid reports of dog walkers being told to go home after driving to a public space for exercise.   

Nicola Sturgeon appeared to pre-empt the Home Office’s official announcement as she set out her plans for police in Scotland at lunchtime which will see people who refuse to adhere to the ban on groups ‘made to return home’.

It is not the first time the Scottish First Minister has acted before the UK government on a coronavirus issue after she did the same on banning large gatherings to ease pressure on emergency services and on school closures. 

Members of the public have been urged by Andy Cooke, the chief constable of Merseyside Police, to report large gatherings as the authorities move to enforce the Prime Ministers ‘stay at home’ message. 

Mr Cooke said he would ‘expect’ people to report large groups but not to bother officers if it is ‘two or three people stood at the end of the road’. 

The apparent need for the new police powers to break up gatherings has been illustrated by reports of officers being called to friends having barbecues, house parties and games of football. 

It came as a new poll conducted for ITV’s Peston programme suggested almost six million people across the UK are continuing to go about their daily lives as normal amid fears spring sunshine could tempt even more to flout the rules. 

Mr Johnson’s lockdown means people should only leave their home for food, medicine, exercise or to go to work if it is ‘absolutely necessary’. Group gatherings of more than two people have also been banned. 

But the survey found seven per cent of Britons are still going out to see friends, eight per cent are doing ‘non-essential shopping’ and five per cent are not washing their hands more than they normally would.

Meanwhile, six per cent of people – approximately three million – are continuing to hug others and shake hands, despite warnings this will increase the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus. 

Officers in Plymouth were today pictured directing traffic at an apparent checkpoint to speak to motorists about their plans

A survey for ITV’s Peston programme found millions of people are not complying with the government’s lockdown measures

Military planners are working with Health Service officials to create the new hospital from scratch to accommodate rising numbers of patients

In his clip, he warns viewers: ‘To be fair, I didn’t take this virus very seriously until I saw this this morning. There will be two morgues here. If you’re not taking it seriously like I wasn’t you really need to start. Because they’re preparing for a high death toll here.’

Major General Timothy Cross, who ran Nato’s emergency relief operation in Kosovo and Macedonia in the 1990s, said it was a ‘big process’ to create a field hospital, but said the military was used to it

Workers unload a lorry at the Excel exhibition centre in London

Government adviser says UK coronavirus epidemic could peak by Easter

One of the government’s top coronavirus advisors said the UK’s epidemic will get worse before it gets better but the peak of it could pass by Easter.

Professor Neil Ferguson added that around a third of people dying from the disease could be considered healthy.

But he believes the NHS will now be able to cope with the outbreak thanks to the nationwide lockdown that was put in place this week. 

He told the BBC: ‘All I would say is, with the lockdown now in place, those numbers are going to start to plateau. The challenge we have is there’s a lag.

‘The people being admitted to hospital right now were infected a week, two weeks, even sometimes three weeks ago, so without doubt the next one [or] two weeks are going to be very difficult.’  

Earlier this week, an nurse criticised the Government’s preparations for the coronavirus outbreak after revealing she was asked to share protective masks with colleagues.

The NHS worker, identified only as Lorraine, warned that the health service was heading into a ‘war zone’ as the ‘tsunami’ of the pandemic hits.

Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Wednesday morning, she revealed her manager had sent staff a message the day before asking them to share masks, as well as filters.

‘Now filters have got bacteria in them, masks have got bacteria in them, these things do not get sterilised like you would your operating equipment,’ she said.

She said the message had been passed on with a ‘sincere apology’ because her workplace ‘do not have the equipment’.

Meanwhile, a university has stepped in offering free rooms at two halls of residence to staff and patients, to help ease the strain on the health service.

The University of Northampton is making 300 empty rooms available to hospital patients and those in social care, who are clear of the virus.

It is hoped the measure frees-up space for those who need oxygen and critical care, the university said.

Free parking at the university’s Waterside campus is also being offered to Northampton General Hospital staff.

University vice-chancellor Professor Nick Petford said: ‘With more challenges ahead and many more new and much needed healthcare professionals due to join the fight, we gladly and gratefully open our doors to them.’ 

A security vehicle patrols the Excel Centre which is a hive of activity in readiness for patients 

Surveyors were at the ExCel centre this morning as building work pressed ahead 

Staff from the Ministry of Defence were seen looking around the ExCel site in London this morning 

Coronavirus UK: New lockdown measures in full

Boris Johnson tonight announced a lockdown plan to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the UK as he told the nation to stay at home. 

People will only be allowed to leave their home for the following ‘very limited’ purposes:

Shopping for basic necessities as infrequently as possible.

One form of exercise a day.

Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person. 

Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary. 

Meanwhile, the PM has announced a ban on: 

Meeting with friends. 

Meeting with family members you do not live with. 

All weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies but excluding funerals. 

All gatherings of more than two people in public.  

The PM said the police will have the powers to enforce the lockdown measures through fines and dispersing gatherings. 

To ensure people comply the government is also: 

Closing all shops selling non-essential goods. 

Closing all libraries, playground,  outdoor gyms and places of worship.

Parks will remain open for exercise, but will be patrolled.  

Soldiers are also being deployed to locations across the country as a scoping exercise to see which other places can be turned into hospitals.

Event spaces, hotels and military barracks are among the options.

Among those also suggested are both the O2 and Wembley Arena, which have space for thousands.

The Ministry of Defence expects ‘far more’ temporary hospitals to be built in the coming weeks.

London is said to be 1.5 to two weeks ahead of the rest of the country in terms of cases which is why the army is focusing its efforts in the capital first.

It also emerged that sailors are being placed in quarantine before they are allowed on ships to ensure they are healthy before being deployed.

Fewer than 10 military personnel have so far tested positive for coronavirus, although not everyone showing symptoms is believed to have been tested. 

Soldiers from 101 Logistic Brigade delivered over 50,000 face masks to St Thomas’ Hospital, London this morning.

They had driven overnight from an Army depot in Haydock, Merseyside, to boost supplies.

The armed forces will be visiting 242 NHS locations over the coming days delivering crucial personal protective equipment to frontline doctors and nurses.

Brigadier Phil Prosser, the commander of 101 Logistics Brigade, Royal Logistic Corps, who oversaw the delivery, warned there were ‘tough times ahead’.

He said: ‘My normal role is to deliver combat supplies to combat forces in time of war – but we can respond to these challenges and it’s great to stand with our NHS colleagues as we get ready for the challenges ahead.’

Brigadier Prosser said his soldiers were proud to be working with alongside the NHS.

The ExCeL Centre in the London Docklands, east of the capital, (pictured) has a capacity of 68,750 and could house 4,000 intensive care beds if needed – far more than any existing hospital in the city 

In Spain, health workers are now receiving the first patients with coronavirus at the Ifema exhibition complex on the outskirts of Madrid.

The field hospital will have 5,500 beds once it is fully sent up, including 500 in an intensive care unit. 

Authorities have called up 52,000 extra workers to help the country’s health service as it struggles to contain the virus, including 14,000 retired doctors and nurses. 

Soldiers helped move coronavirus patients on Sunday to a makeshift field hospital set up at a Madrid conference centre which is to be fitted with 5,500 hospital beds, which would make it the biggest such facility in Europe. 

Hotels across Spain are being offered as hospitals and in Madrid, the region worst-hit by the coronavirus, Madrid’s famous conference and exhibition centre has started to receive its first patients. 

The halls have been converted in just 18 hours, compared with 18 days for a major event, and will offer 5,500 beds, as well as an intensive care unit.

The Ayre Gran Hotel Colon in Madrid has been the first to start receiving patients who have symptoms but whose condition requires medical follow-up without the need to be admitted to a hospital, both at the beginning of the disease and in the final phase.

The chains with a presence in Madrid have made 60,000 spaces available to the health authorities.

Health workers are now receiving the first patients with coronavirus at the Ifema exhibition complex on the outskirts of Madrid

After military planners visited the ExCeL Centre in east London, the nearby O2 Arena (pictured) in North Greenwich, could also be used as a field hospital to treat coronavirus patients

Boris Johnson’s coronavirus lockdown backed by 93 PER CENT of the public – poll finds

Boris Johnson’s coronavirus lockdown is backed by 93 per cent of Britons, according to a poll this week.

But in a potentially worrying sign for the PM, two-thirds believe that the extraordinary curbs will be easy to obey. 

The announcement by the PM last night mean that everyone must stay inside unless it is absolutely essential.

Gatherings of more than two people have been banned in the most dramatic restrictions on freedom ever seen in Britain in time of peace or war. 

But research by YouGov shows the measures have overwhelming endorsement from the public,

He added: ‘The British Army soldier is a citizen soldier and is proud to be part of the nation’s response to this unprecedented challenge.

‘There are some tough times ahead and the nation needs to rise together to respond to those times.

‘The British Army soldier is absolutely proud to be at the frontline of that response.’

Military planners are also currently advising the NHS on logistical measures to ensure vital equipment gets to where it’s most needed.

The armed forces will also help the NHS increase its ability to store the vital kit which will keep hospital workers safe while caring for patients.

More than 460 personnel from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force are expected to be drafted in to help deliver the equipment over the coming days.

Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey MP said: ‘By deploying over 460 personnel to assist with the delivery of protective equipment, our Armed Forces are helping the tireless NHS workforce carry out their vital efforts treating people during this outbreak.

‘At this difficult time we must all come together to protect the most vulnerable in our society. This is just one example of where the military and NHS will work together over the coming months for the benefit of our nation.’

The Army has also been sent to get testing machines from university labs so coronavirus checks can be carried out on NHS staff.

Private labs will have their machines taken to a central NHS processing centre within days to offer tens of thousands of extra tests a day. 

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