Falling Covid-19 cases in UK puts mega hospital on ‘standby’

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A 4,000-bed mega hospital built in nine days in London with the help of the military in April was on Monday put on ‘standby’ after a fall in the number of patients stricken by coronavirus in recent days meant that most of its capacity remains unutilised.

The hospital, called NHS Nightingale Hospital, came up in the sprawling ExCel Centre in east London. It is one among seven new Nightingale hospitals across the UK. There has been a sustained fall in cases, particularly in the hotspot of London in recent days.

As of Sunday evening, the UK-wide cumulative death toll was 28,446, with 186,599 cases, and 14,248 people currently in hospitals. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week that the UK is now “past the peak”.

A Downing Street spokesman said on Monday that the Nightingale hospital in London was put on ‘standby’ due to limited demand: “It’s not likely that in the coming days we will need to be admitting patients to the London Nightingale while coronavirus in the capital remains under control”.

“That’s obviously a very positive thing and we remain grateful to everybody in London for following the government’s advice in helping to protect the NHS. What the Nightingale will be is effectively placed on standby so it would be ready to receive patients should that be required, but we are not anticipating that will be the case.”

Similar mega hospitals have been set up in Manchester, Birmingham, Harrogate and Bristol, with two more due to open shortly in Sunderland and Exeter.

The spokesman said: “Manchester has taken some patients already; Birmingham, Harrogate and Bristol are ready to take patients if needed…People followed the advice to stay at home, that’s slowed the rate of infection and meant that the NHS wasn’t overwhelmed.”

The UK’s hospital system not being overwhelmed by the pandemic is one of the five tests the government has set before easing lockdown restrictions are considered. The others are: that the daily death rate falls sustainably and consistently; that the rate of infection is falling; that the operational challenges have been met’ and most importantly, that there is no risk of a second peak.

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