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UK rushes to build field hospitals as coronavirus death toll climbs to 2,926; cases surge past 34,000

Two new facilities will be built in Bristol in the west and Harrogate in the north to house up to 1,500 patients, the state-run National Health Service (NHS) said in a statement.

Published: 03rd April 2020 01:29 PM  |   Last Updated: 03rd April 2020 01:29 PM   |  A+A-

In the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, soldiers are delivering millions of face masks to hospitals and helping to build makeshift medical facilities, including one at London's ExCel convention center that can treat as many as 4,000 patients.

In the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, soldiers are delivering millions of face masks to hospitals and helping to build makeshift medical facilities, including one at London's ExCel convention center that can treat as many as 4,000 patients. (Photo | AP)

By AFP

LONDON: The UK government said Friday it was rushing to build more emergency field hospitals ahead of an expected surge in coronavirus cases, hours after recording a record 569 deaths from the disease.

Two new facilities will be built in Bristol in the west and Harrogate in the north to house up to 1,500 patients, the state-run National Health Service (NHS) said in a statement.

The announcement comes as a similar 4,000-bed facility in London -- built in less than ten days -- prepares to open Friday, and as criticism mounts over the government's failure to provide screening, particularly for frontline healthcare workers.

ALSO READ | UK to massively ramp up coronavirus tests, says PM Boris Johnson

"Further such hospitals will open next in Birmingham and Manchester, offering up to 3,000 beds between them," the NHS statement added.

The health ministry announced a record 569 deaths from the virus in Britain in the 24 hours up to 1600 GMT on Wednesday -- the largest single-day rise yet.

It followed 563 deaths over the previous corresponding period.

UK has so far recorded over 34,000 cases with its death toll mounting to 2,926, according to Johns Hopkins data.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Britain will "massively increase testing" for the COVID-19 virus following criticism of his initial light-touch approach to the outbreak.

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Johnson has been in self-isolation "with mild symptoms" at his Downing Street official residence since announcing on March 27 that he had caught the virus.

Heir to the throne Prince Charles Thursday made his first public comments since coming out of self-quarantine after contracting the disease, telling the PA news agency the experience had been "strange, frustrating and often distressing".

In a video message, he praised the "utter, selfless devotion to duty" of Britain's health workers.

The country took part in another collective round of applause at 8:00 pm (2000 GMT) Thursday, with social media videos capturing cheers across its cities, towns and villages.

Johnson is facing criticism even in normally supportive media outlets after officials revealed that just 2,000 out of about 500,000 NHS staff had been tested.

Health minister Matt Hancock said Thursday the government was "determined" to scale up tests across the board in the coming weeks, with a "goal of 100,000 tests per day by the end of this month".

Hancock blamed global demand for swabs and reagents for the lack of tests, and said that some they had bought were faulty.

In order to meet the demand, the government said it would work with private firms such as Amazon and chemist Boots, and that three new "mega labs" would soon be online.

Testing for the general public has also been criticised as not widespread enough and is currently largely limited to hospital admissions of the most serious COVID-19 patients.

On Tuesday, 10,000 hospital patients and NHS staff were tested in England, well below the daily target of 25,000 and the 70,000 a day achieved in Germany, which has been used as a comparison.

Paul Nurse, chief executive of biomedical research centre the Francis Crick Institute, told the BBC Thursday that the government should summon "the Dunkirk spirit" and let "small ship" labs start screening for the killer disease.

So far, Public Health England (PHE), the body tasked with testing, has insisted all screening should be carried out centrally.

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