Emergency Nightingale hospitals remain ‘ready’, UK govt insists, as Covid-19 surge puts NHS under heavy strain

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman has said the emergency hospitals set up to treat Covid-19 patients remain empty but “ready,” as hospitalisation levels reach new highs.

Speaking on Tuesday, the PM’s spokesman reiterated that the UK’s expensive temporary hospitals – built at a cost of £220 million – were still largely idle, despite the huge surge in Covid-19 cases across the country in recent months.

“The Nightingales are ready to support the NHS and are an important insurance policy should they be needed,” the spokesman said.

“Some are already being used for outpatients and for diagnostics and scans, and some are being prepared for additional use as COVID vaccination centres,” he added. 

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A number of British media outlets have claimed that the temporary hospitals have largely been dismantled.On Monday, the Independent reported that the flagship Nightingale Hospital in London had been stripped of its beds and ventilators, and claimed there were not enough staff to run the facilities. 

However, a spokesperson for the NHS said: “The Nightingale in London remains on standby and will be available to support the capital’s hospitals if needed.”  

On Monday, the UK registered 41,385 new infections amid claims that the new strain of Covid-19, prevalent in Britain, is up to 70 percent more contagious. 

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It was also announced on Monday that hospitalisations with Covid-19 in England had reached an all-time high of 20,426, way above the April 12 peak of 18,974. 

Last week it was reported that nearly 90 percent of hospital beds in England were full, and that the NHS was struggling to cope with the challenge of treating rising numbers of Covid-19 patients as well as other winter pressures.

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