Coronavirus field hospital opens at London Comic Con venue

NHS Nightingale at London ExCel is the first of several temporary hospitals being set up by the UK government to house COVID-19 patients.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
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NHS Nightingale opened at London's ExCel Centre on Friday.

Stefan Rousseau/Getty Images

The UK's first dedicated coronavirus field hospital, NHS Nightingale, opened Friday at London's ExCel Centre in the east of the city.

The ExCel Centre is a 100-acre convention and exhibition venue that more commonly hosts events such as the Crufts dog show and Comic Con. This year's London Comic Con was scheduled to take place at the end of May but has been pushed back to July.

The temporary NHS Nightingale Hospital was built inside the exhibition space in just nine days by 160 contractors and 200 members of the armed forces. The hospital can house up to 4,000 patients in intensive care beds and will need 16,000 staff to keep it running.

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"It shows what's possible when we come together as one team in a national effort," Health Minister Matt Hancock said during the government's daily press conference. He paid tribute to everyone who played a part in the hospital's construction.

Prince Charles, who tested positive for the coronavirus in March but has now recovered, sent a video tribute to celebrate the hospital opening, from Scotland where he's been self-isolating. He described the field hospital as "a spectacular and almost unbelievable feat of work." 

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

The UK's death rate has been rising steadily in recent days and is expected to peak around April 12. As of Friday, April 3, the number of coronavirus deaths in the country had reached 605. The entire country has been on lockdown since March 23.

More Nightingale hospitals will be opened in the coming days and weeks, in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff and Harrogate, providing almost 12,000 additional beds for patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

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