- To help fight coronavirus the U.K. government commissioned the build of NHS Nightingale within the London Excel conference center.
- NHS Nightingale is Britain's first COVID-19 pop-up hospital and the world's largest critical care unit.
- The hospital has 500 beds but can increase capacity to between 4,000 and 5,000 beds.
The world's largest critical care unit opened in London on Friday, as the U.K. steps up its fight to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.
U.K. health-care workers and the British military worked together to overhaul the London ExCel center, which normally hosts conferences and exhibitions, building the pop-up Nightingale hospital in just nine days.
The hospital was built to help Britain's National Health Service (NHS) cope with the surge in demand for emergency care due to the coronavirus, which has so far infected 34,192 and killed 2,926 people in the U.K., according to latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
Global cases of the COVID-19 infection have now surpassed the 1 million mark.
The temporary hospital, named after the pioneering nurse Florence Nightingale, currently holds 500 beds, though the NHS said the facility in east London has the capacity for between 4,000 and 5,000 beds.
NHS hospitals across the U.K. have already freed up more than 33,000 beds, equivalent to 50 new hospitals. Meanwhile, the private hospital sector agreed to offer up to 8,000 beds, as well as staff and equipment, for use by the NHS.
The hospital covers 900,000 square feet (83,613 square meters), the equivalent of around a dozen soccer pitches, as described in an NHS video on Twitter.
The facility comprises of 78 wards, named after British medical professionals.
Areas will be divided into bays of six patients and will be able to provide ventilation for 2,800 patients, helping those affected by the infection to breathe.
Health-care workers from across the NHS have been recruited, including student nurses, medical students who are starting work early, along with thousands of former nurses, doctors and other staff who have returned to the NHS due to the coronavirus.
The military is continuing to help the NHS by "providing infrastructure, logistics and project management advice."
The NHS has also enlisted the help of U.K. airlines easyJet and Virgin Atlantic, asking those who have not worked since the pandemic grounded planes to assist health-care workers at the hospital.
EasyJet has written to all 9,000 of its U.K. based staff, including 4,000 cabin crew who are trained in CPR and Virgin Atlantic has also sent out letters to around 4,000 of its employees.
"It's nothing short of extraordinary that this new hospital in London has been established from scratch in less than a fortnight," said NHS chief executive Simon Stevens, adding that health-care workers and the military had done "in a matter of days what usually takes years."
The NHS announced another two Nightingale hospitals would be built in Bristol, in the southwest of England, and in Harrogate, in Yorkshire. Those two pop-up hospitals are in addition to the other two sites in the process of being constructed in Manchester, in the northwest, and in Birmingham, in the midlands.