England is set to open temporary field hospitals to contain a possible overspill of inpatients due to a surge in coronavirus cases, the national health service said Thursday.
Fuelled by the highly contagious Omicron variant, daily cases have ballooned, standing at more than 183,000 on Wednesday.
NHS England said it would start building the structures in the grounds of eight hospitals in cities including London, Bristol and Leeds from this week, with each designed to house around 100 extra patients.
“Given the high level of COVID-19 infections and increasing hospital admissions, the NHS is now on a war footing,” National Medical Director Stephen Powis said.
The extra beds are designed for patients who are recovering from illnesses, including those who no longer have Covid, to free up space and staff to treat large numbers of virus cases.
The number of patients in hospital with the virus are also growing fast, exceeding 10,000 in England on Wednesday — the highest figure since March.
The UK has been one of Europe’s worst hit countries with a death toll of 148,089.
The government opened large “Nightingale” field hospitals in venues such as exhibition centres during the first wave of the virus. The facilities named after nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale were not widely used.
This time, the plan is to make available as many as 4,000 “super-surge beds”, in some cases using existing hospital facilities such as gyms.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We hope the Nightingale surge hubs at hospitals will not have to be used but it is absolutely right that we prepare for all scenarios and increase capacity”.