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UK opens 4,000-bed COVID-19 hospital

By Earle Gale in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-04-04 02:09

A general view of the new NHS Nightingale Hospital, built to fight against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, Britain, March 27, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

The United Kingdom opened its first dedicated COVID-19 hospital on Friday, the NHS Nightingale, which was created in a matter of days from space within an exhibition and conference center in the capital's Docklands district.

The 4,000-bed facility will be joined by other COVID-19 field hospitals, including institutions in Bristol and Harrogate that NHS England announced on Friday.

Other COVID-19 hospitals are under construction in Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, and Manchester.

Prince Charles officially opened the London hospital via video-link, after recovering from COVID-19 earlier in the week. Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who also recovered from the disease recently and who returned from self-isolation on Thursday, attended the opening. However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who announced he had contracted the virus last Friday, remained in self-isolation on Friday after continuing to run a high temperature.

Charles, whose mother, the queen, will address the nation in a televised speech on Sunday, said the construction of the hospital, which was completed with military help within 10 days, was "a spectacular and almost unbelievable feat of work" that illustrates "how the impossible could be made possible and how we can achieve the unthinkable through human will and ingenuity".

"In this dark time," he said. "This place will be a shining light."

The hospital, which will start operating with 500 inhabited beds before it is ramped up to the full 4,000, will be staffed by military medics, student doctors and nurses, formerly retired NHS staff, and professionals who have volunteered from other parts of the NHS.

The opening came as the UK reported another 684 virus fatalities, taking the total as of Friday to 3,605.

Later on Friday, at the UK government's daily news briefing Hancock, the health secretary, reaffirmed the nation's intention to roll out the large-scale testing of medics in the coming days, and said 7,000 have been tested so-far for the disease. He has already set a target of the health service carrying out 100,000 tests a day by the end of April.

He also said the government has been spearheading promising trials of therapeutic medicines to treat the disease, research, he said, that is "absolutely central to the plan" to fight the pandemic.

"We need more people to take part in these trials," he said, while promising that any medicines or vaccines developed will be shared.

"Whatever we learn, we will share, because we are all on the same side in this war," he added.

Also on Friday, the heads of the International Monetary Fund and the World Health Organization wrote in the UK's Telegraph newspaper that the global economy will not return to health until after the pandemic is beaten.

Kristalina Georgieva and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "The course of the global health crisis and the fate of the global economy are inseparably intertwined. Fighting the pandemic is a necessity for the economy to rebound. That is why the WHO and IMF are cooperating closely with one another, and with other international organizations, to help address countries' priority needs."

Their open letter called upon people in power to "focus on the right priorities to save lives and livelihoods" in "one of humanity's darkest hours" and said world leaders must especially "step up" to help those in emerging markets.

In the UK, Chancellor Rishi Sunak responded to criticism of his recently unveiled financial aid package for businesses by revamping it on Friday.

Sunak's department, the Treasury, made the move after it became clear an emergency loans scheme aimed at keeping businesses afloat during the pandemic was failing to deliver, with the Treasury admitting it had approved only 1,000 business loans out of 130,000 enquires.

Sunak said he will also be talking to big banks, to ensure they are not taking advantage of the crisis to aim expensive loans at desperate enterprises.

Elsewhere in Europe, there was hope in Spain on Friday when the nation recorded a daily death toll that was smaller than the previous day's. Spain has now lost 10,935 people to the disease.

And, in France, law enforcement officers set up roadblocks to try to stop people disobeying curfews and heading for the south coast for the traditional Easter holiday.

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