UK death toll crosses 1,000; mega hospitals coming up

The death toll crossed 1,000 on Saturday with the latest figures showing 1,019 dead and 17,089 cases, as the coronavirus pandemic struck at the heart of the Boris Johnson government with another cabinet minister going into self isolation.

The death toll rose by 260 in a single day from 759, and the number of cases by 2,546 from 14,543 on Friday. Alister Jack, secretary for Scotland in the Boris Johnson government, also announced his symptoms and self-isolation.

Jack joins Prime Minister Johnson, health secretary Matt Hancock and chief medical officer of England Chris Whitty who revealed their affliction from the virus on Friday. Prince Charles tested positive on Monday and has since been in isolation in Scotland.

Jack said: “In the past 24 hours, I have developed mild symptoms associated with coronavirus. In line with medical guidance, I am self-isolating and working from home”. Officials said he has not been tested for the virus.

Anticipating a surge in the number of patients in the coming weeks, the government announced the conversion of at least three large conference and exhibition centres into hospitals, equipped to treat at least 4,000 patients each.

The first of the three – the ExCel Centre near Canary Wharf in east London – will open next week. The other two sites are Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre and Manchester Central Conference Centre – both spread over a large area, due to open in mid-April.

“Further such hospitals will follow,” said Simon Stevens, head of the National Health Service in England. The ExCel Centre facility is called NHS Nightingale Hospital.

Stevens said: “We have reconfigured hospital services so that 33,000 hospital beds are available to treat further coronavrius patients. It is also why we are taking the extraordinary action to build new hospitals in very short order, starting with the NHS Nightingale hospital.”

Since the issue is not confined to London, he added: “I have given the go-ahead to the building of two further NHS Nightingale hospitals… with further such hospitals to follow.” He also announced immediate testing of health professionals after facing intense criticism over lack of such testing.

“It is urgently important to test frontline staff who are off sick or are self-isolating. The number of tests carried out will be doubled by the end of next week compared to this week”, Stevens added.

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