Nick Abbot 10pm - 1am
Coronavirus: 33,000 new NHS beds created as infection rate doubles 'every three days'
27 March 2020, 17:13
Two more emergency hospitals will be opened in the UK to help deal with the growing numbers of coronavirus patients.
The NHS Nightingale has already been established in the London ExCel Centre, and has the capacity of 4,000.
But two more will be built in the Birmingham NEC and Manchester GMEX, increasing the number of care beds in the UK by 33,000.
It was also confirmed that "further such hospitals" will follow.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove said rate of infections have been doubling every three or four days, with the current number of confirmed infections currently standing at 14,543.
NHS CEO Simon Stevens said that beds have been freed around the country in preparation of more infections, with the equivalent of at least 50 hospitals now lying empty.
It was also announced that emergency testing will be rolled out "immediately" for frontline NHS services, starting with critical care nurses and any NHS staff who are having to self-isolate after having symptoms.
He said: "This will be antigen testing - testing whether people currently have the disease - so that our health and social care workers can have security in the knowledge that they are safe to return to work if their test is negative.
"These tests will be trialled for people on the frontline starting immediately, with hundreds to take place by the end of the weekend - dramatically scaling up next week."
He added: "From an NHS perspective, we think it is urgently important that we are able to test frontline workers who are off sick or otherwise isolating.
"That's why the work that Public Health England has been leading is so important because it means we are going to be able to double this time next week the number of tests we have been doing this week.
"I can say that today we will be rolling out staff testing across the NHS, starting next week with the critical care nurses, other staff in intensive care, emergency departments, ambulance services, GPs.
"As testing volumes continue to increase, we want to widen that to essential public service workers, as well as our social care workers, and continue with patient testing that is so vital."
Mr Gove thanked those working in the NHS and "all those involved in this effort to reinforce the frontline in the battle against the virus".
The Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty is now also in self-isolation after experiencing symptoms.