As the virus rises, England builds temporary hospitals

England is building temporary hospitals to help cope with rising coronavirus cases when Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday issued a stern warning to those who were not fully vaccinated.

The new “surge hubs” would deal with a potential overplay of inpatients as rising virus cases put the country’s health care on “war footing”, according to officials.

Burned by the highly contagious Omicron variant, daily cases have skyrocketed, reaching more than 189,000 on Thursday.

While emphasizing the success of the booster rollout, Johnson said he wanted to “speak directly to all those who have not yet been fully vaccinated. The people who believe the disease can not harm them.”

“Look at the people who are going into the hospital now, it could be you. Look at the intensive care units and the miserable, unnecessary suffering of those who did not get their booster, it could be you,” he said.

NHS England said it would provide extra beds in structures due to eight hospitals in cities including London, Bristol and Leeds from this week, with each designed to house around 100 extra patients.

Outside St George’s Hospital in Tooting in south London, workers were already setting up a metal frame to support the roof of a new unit, AFP reporters said Thursday.

People at a free COVID-19 test kit distribution site on Hoe Street in Walthamstow, North London on 30 December 2021 (Tolga Akmen / AFP)

“Given the high level of Covid-19 infections and rising hospitalizations, the NHS is now at war,” said National Medical Director Stephen Powis.

He added that he hoped “we should never use these new hubs.”

The extra beds are designed for patients recovering from illness, including those who no longer have Covid, to free up space and staff in the adjoining hospitals to treat a large number of virus cases.

Britain has been one of Europe’s hardest hit countries with a death toll of over 148,000.

The government opened large “Nightingale” field hospitals in places like exhibition centers during the first wave of the virus. The facilities named after the nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale were not used much and the staff was a problem due to their huge size.

This time, the plan is to make as many as 4,000 “super-surge beds” available, in some cases using existing hospital facilities such as gyms or training centers.

Doctors warned of rising staff shortages due to people being sick with the virus or self-isolating.

England is the exception among British nations in not introducing extra virus restrictions during the Christmas period, while Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have imposed limits on how many people can socialize together and closed nightclubs.

A sign for a COVID-19 test center on Hoe Street in Walthamstow, north London on 30 December 2021 (Tolga Akmen / AFP)

Johnson has said that the high booster consumption rate in the UK plus evidence that Omicron is milder has allowed the country to avoid more restrictions.

He has encouraged people to get tested before attending New Year’s events and to be “sensible.”

The number of people testing positive or in self-isolation is affecting sectors, including transportation.

The Southern Railway Company announced on Thursday that it will not run trains from London’s Victoria station, one of Britain’s busiest, until January 10 due to “coronavirus isolation and disease.”

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