A video showing the inside of the ExCeL exhibition centre in London as it begins to be converted into a temporary coronavirus hospital has revealed the huge scale of the project.
Alex Woodside posted a video to Facebook on Wednesday showing the 600-metre-long hall where hundreds of hospital beds will be placed to treat patients with Covid-19.
Preparations are clearly gathering pace, as workers move among stacks of pipes and other building materials spread across the vast floor space.
“Just here making the new makeshift hospital. Currently making up cables for it – I didn’t take this virus very seriously until I saw this this morning,” Woodside said, evidently shocked at just how big the new hospital is.
The emergency facility in Canning Town, east London, will eventually hold 4,000 critical care beds spread across two wards.
It is understood that by Monday NHS planners aim to have in place 500 of the 4,000 beds needed in total.
The facility is planned to be the first of a number of crisis centres around the UK, designed to deal with a surge of patients with breathing difficulties needing access to ventilators. The ExCeL site is being converted first, as the spread of cases in London is thought to be about two weeks ahead of the rest of the country.
The centre has 87,328 sq metres (21.5 acres) of space spread across two large event halls, each with 22 drive-in doorways. It’s commonly used for large exhibitions and conferences, and has hosted a G20 summit and events for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
As he panned the camera around the building, Woodside said: “If you’re not taking it seriously, like I wasn’t, I think we really need to start because they’re preparing for an absolute high death toll here.”
He added: “Welcome to NHS Nightingale,” the name of the new facility, chosen in honour of Florence Nightingale.
At a news conference on Tuesday, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “The NHS Nightingale hospital will comprise two wards each of 2,000 people. With the help of the military and with NHS clinicians, we will make sure that we have the capacity that we need.”
Military planners and personnel are guiding the high-speed operation required to transform the site into a fully equipped emergency care centre.