The military is drawing up plans to build nine more emergency hospitals around the country, with eight more sites under consideration, as Britain’s coronavirus pandemic continues to take a heavy toll.
The field facilities will be smaller than the 4,000-bed NHS Nightingale built at the ExCel Centre in London’s Docklands. Construction has already begun in four of the nine hospitals, which will, among other places, be in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff, Bristol, Harrogate, Belfast and Cumbria.
Other locations being looked at, it is believed, are the Kent Event Centre, near Maidstone, the largest conference centre in the country, the Brighton Centre in Sussex, and sites in Cambridge and Norwich.
Almost 25,000 service personnel are currently in a state of “very high readiness” for any emergencies, according to defence officials, with 10,000 of them focusing on Covid-19 duties, and around 3,000 on average deployed each day.
The RAF has been involved in repatriating British nationals stranded abroad, and is now ferrying-in ventilators including, on a recent flight, 200 sets from China.
Meanwhile personnel from 77th Brigade, which specialises in cyberwarfare and information operations, may be used to counter harmful misinformation about the pandemic such as claims in social media that it is being caused by the setting up of the 5G network.
Telephone masts have been set alight on three occasions since the allegation began to surface.
Angela McLean, chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence, wanted to stress, however, that the cases of the virus are “not accelerating out of control”.
She said the “good news” is partly because of a massive reduction in the number of people using major railway stations, with footfall down 94 per cent compared with the first week in March.
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