The UK government is scrambling to ramp up intensive care capacity as the number of coronavirus cases to grow.
The main hotspot for COVID-19 — remains London — where hospitals are clearing wards and re-purposing existing facilities in readiness for a large influx of patients.
Speaking at a daily press briefing, the National Health Service’s Medical Director in England, Stephen Powis, outlined the preparations taking place.
"So we are not at capacity yet within London but beds are being opened all the time to produce that extra surge capacity. So in the first instance, we are using theatres and recovery areas so those are areas in hospitals where anesthetic machines ventilators are already used for surgery and can be readily adapted to take critically ill patients,” he said.
“In London... that's almost doubling the capacity that we have already. We are not using it at the moment but clearly the number of patients is increasing each day. So we are expanding that capacity in advance."
The government is also building new field hospitals. London’s Excel Conference Centre is being re-purposed to house up to 4,000 coronavirus patients. It will join two other exhibition venues in Manchester and Birmingham in providing overflow capacity for main hospitals during the peak of Britain’s outbreak.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to oversee the UK’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, albeit from home, after he was placed into self-isolation when he tested positive for the disease on Friday.
He posted a video on his Twitter account to thank those on the frontline, particularly retired health workers who have pledged to help strained hospitals.
“Thank you to everybody who is now coming back into the NHS in such huge numbers. Just this evening I can tell you we have 20,000 NHS staff coming back to the colours, doctors and nurses, it’s the most amazing thing. That’s in addition to the 750,000 members of the public that have volunteered to get us through this crisis,” he said.
Another major focus remains the severe lack of ventilators needed for the country’s hospitals. Major companies like Ford and Airbus now working alongside universities and smaller firms in designing prototypes ready to be fast-tracked for government approval and deployed across intensive care units.