Two further field hospitals will open in Manchester and Birmingham to cope with a surge in coronavirus patients, with more expected to be built later.
Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre and Manchester’s Central Convention Centre are being turned into coronavirus field hospitals “with further such hospitals to follow”.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens made the announcement during the Government’s daily Covid-19 briefing on Friday, which was led by Cabinet Minister Michael Gove .
He said the two temporary hospitals – which will reportedly have space for 6,000 beds between them – would be available next month.
Earlier this week the health secretary Matt Hancock announced that the ExCel centre in east London would become a temporary coronavirus hospital by next week , with space for 4,000 patients.
On Wednesday, the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, Britain’s largest exhibition space, had said it “stands ready” to be used as a hospital.
NEC 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.”
Mr Thandi added: “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.”
The NEC is nearly three times as large as the ExCel centre in terms of floor space.
Work has also begun on a temporary mortuary with space for around 12,000 bodies at Birmingham Airport, near the NEC.
The mortuary is being prepared for a worst-case scenario, according to local police, councils and other agencies.
The Manchester Central convention centre is much smaller than both the NEC and the ExCel centre, but would still have room for hundreds of patients, the Manchester Evening News reported.
The Standard has approached the Manchester Central convention centre for comment.
The news comes as Manchester mayor Andy Burnham raised concerns that more than 150 companies in the city have broken social distancing rules this week.
Mr Burnham called on the Government to make guidance clearer and said: “So many of our city-region’s businesses, large and small, are pulling together and supporting our communities through this outbreak.
“However, despite repeated calls to stay at home and protect the NHS, some employers are carrying on as normal and refusing to adapt. This is unacceptable.”
The NHS said on Friday that a total of 759 people had died in the UK after contracting coronavirus as of 5pm on Thursday, up by 181 in 24 hours.