Three weeks ago, operators and suppliers were walking around the London ExCeL discussing the latest catering equipment on offer at the HRC show. From next week, those same halls will become an emergency hospital for the treatment of coronavirus patients.
The temporary NHS Nightingale Hospital, London, will initially have 500 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen, with this number increasing to several thousand if necessary. Ominously, it will also house two morgues.
The quick turnaround is being organised by NHS staff and the military in a bid to take the strain off other hospitals.
The ExCeL plays host to some of the biggest events on the calendars of many different industries. The HRC Show, which took place on March 3-5, was one of the last exhibitions at the venue before the outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent government regulation began to put an end to public gatherings.
Industry professionals and the ExCeL are hopeful that the situation will be under control in time for events later in the year, including several catering and foodservice shows.
The expo is part of a wider event titled #FES20, which will include several foodservice expos focusing on coffee shops, drinks, restaurant and bar tech, street food and more. All will take place on September 8-9.
Jeremy Rees, CEO, ExCeL London, said: “Our country is facing the largest national emergency for a generation and our thoughts and sympathies are with those who are personally affected by this situation. It is crucial that everyone plays their part in the national effort, working with the government to combat the spread of the coronavirus and save lives.
“We are proud to be able to accommodate the increasing demand for hospital beds and will work with the NHS to facilitate this request. The team at ExCeL London will ensure that we work with the government and relevant authorities to support their efforts in seeing the British people and the UK through this unprecedented crisis.”
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “Under these exceptionally challenging circumstances, the NHS is taking extraordinary steps to fight coronavirus. That’s why NHS clinicians and managers are working with military planners and engineers to create, equip, staff and open the NHS Nightingale London, and we’re very grateful for their support.
“This will be a model of care never needed or seen before in this country, but our specialist doctors are in touch with their counterparts internationally who are also opening facilities like this, in response to the shared global pandemic.
“Despite these amazing measures, the fact is no health service in the world will cope if coronavirus lets rip, which is why NHS staff are pleading with the public to follow medical advice – stay at home, stop the virus spreading, and save lives.”