Epic scale of London’s virus problem
An enormous convention centre converted into a 5000 bed hospital and an open air morgue in a city park are due to receive their first patients this week, revealing the epic scale of London's virus problem.
Fences, portacabins and temporary flooring has been put down in the Manor Flats area of Newham, East London to hold the bodies of those who have died from coronavirus in the city.
Local residents received a letter from the Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, saying it will "act as a holding point before a respectful and dignified cremation or burial can take place to send a loved one on their final journey."
"Sadly relatives will not be able to visit the site," she wrote, while funerals will have to take place under social distancing guidelines.
Mourners are also advised to ensure they don't take part in any rituals that bring them into contact with the body as there is a "small but real risk of transmission from the body of a deceased person."
Those with the virus will also be unable to donate their organs, the UK's Human Tissue Authority has confirmed.
It comes as the newly built NHS Nightingale hospital in London's ExCel convention centre prepares to receive its first patients by Saturday.
The huge venue that usually hosts conventions and sporting events has been kitted out by the military with up to 5000 beds and equipment loaned from other hospitals including critical ventilators.
It is looking for staff and volunteers, and armed forces members have been drafted in to help run the operation. Would be staff are warned "you will be expected to help out with challenging situations in a critical care environment" amid reports that 50 to 80 per cent of those being treated would die.
"Please consider before applying for this role if you are comfortable working in these circumstances. Patient care is critical and you will need to call on your resilience and emotional strength in this situation," the NHS has warned those applying.
Gulf War veteran Colonel Ashleigh Boreham, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is overseeing construction of the hospital and has dubbed the virus "an enemy you can't see".
"It's the biggest job I've ever done. But you know what? I've spent 27 years on a journey to this moment," he said.
"This enemy is different to what we're used to dealing with. This is a threat you can't see. Yes it's a big job, without a doubt. But it's achievable.
"I've got the experience. I'm the right person at the right time for this particular project."
Video posted on social media from inside the hall shows workers struggling to comprehend the scale of the operation.
"If you're not taking seriously like I wasn't I think you all need to start," said one worker.
I have so many questions about what the govt decided when. And why it didn’t tell the public. Even as it was refusing to ban mass concerts & sports events, it was planning mortuaries & hospitals. I keep thinking of lambs & slaughter— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) March 25, 2020
The temporary measures are just two in a series of rapidly established facilities to deal with the coronavirus pandemic which is on track to take nearly 50,000 lives globally.
Across the UK, Europe the US and Asia, airports, skating rinks, city parks, stadiums and convention centres have been turned into makeshift field hospitals while governments have begged companies to turn their hand to manufacturing ventilators.
China built two new hospitals in just ten days while New York's Central Park, a stadium in Sao Paulo and an exhibition centre in Madrid are being used for patients.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said NHS Nightingale will be a "model of care never needed or seen before in this country."
"But our specialist doctors are in touch with their counterparts internationally who are also opening facilities like this, in response to the shared global pandemic."
"Despite these amazing measures, the fact is no health service in the world will cope if coronavirus lets rip, which is why NHS staff are pleading with the public to follow medical advice - stay at home, stop the virus spreading, and save lives."
England's chief nursing officer Ruth May said retired colleagues had returned to work to fight the virus.
"This is the single biggest health challenge our country has faced in generations, and we need everyone to follow the guidance set out by government about how to stay safe and practise good hygiene," she said.
The British army has also been heavily involved in planning to fight the outbreak including supplying drivers for oxygen tankers, delivering protective equipment and helicopter transport.
The UK has recorded nearly 30,000 cases and nearly 2700 deaths from coronavirus.