PRINCE Charles today hailed the “unbelievable feat of work” that saw a new 4,000-bed coronavirus hospital opened in just nine days.
The 71-year-old praised the NHS Nightingale in London via video link – with the facility key in the fight against the outbreak.
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Speaking from his Scottish home of Birkhall, Prince Charles said his thoughts and prayers would be with the patients who needed treatment for the deadly bug.
He told the crowd, which stood apart according to social distancing rules: “It is without doubt a spectacular and almost unbelievable feat of work in every sense – from its speed of construction as we’ve heard to its size and the skills of those who have created it.
“An example, if ever one was needed of how the impossible can be made possible and how we can achieve the unthinkable through human will and ingenuity.”
In the stirring speech, he added: “In this dark time, this place will be a shining light.”
The Army joined with the NHS to transform the ExCel Centre in East London into the new hospital, with it expected to start accepting its first patients tonight.
It was one of his first royal duties back after the future king emerged from seven days of isolation after testing positive for coronavirus.
Speaking today, the royal said: “I was one of the lucky ones to have had Covid-19 relatively mildly.
“But for some, it will be a much harder journey.
“I am therefore so relieved that everyone can now have the reassurance that they will get all the necessary technical care that they may need and every chance to return to a normal life.
“This hospital therefore offers us an intensely practical message of hope for those who will need it most at this time of national suffering.”
‘A MESSAGE OF HOPE’
And he joked that the “wonders of modern technology can only do so much” as he “couldn’t quite reach” the rope to unveil the plaque.
He instead asked Natalie Grey, head of nursing at NHS Nightingale, to do the honours.
The message read: “This plaque is a tribute to the engineers, members of the armed forces, NHS staff, contractors and public volunteers who helped to build this hospital in March 2020.”
Those attending the ceremony in person included Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who recently came out of isolation after recovering from the virus, Professor Charles Knight, chief executive of NHS Nightingale, and representatives from the Ministry of Defence, contractors and volunteers.
The hospital will start accept its first 19 patients tonight in Britain’s battle against the killer bug.
Staff will then be able to rest over the weekend before a try-run will be carried out on Monday as more patients arrive on Tuesday.
‘EXTRAORDINARY’ Prince Charles opens NHS Nightingale hospital
Secretary of State, Ladies and Gentlemen.
If I may say so, I was enormously touched to have been asked to open the Nightingale Hospital as part of a mass mobilization to withstand the coronavirus crisis.
It is without doubt a spectacular and almost unbelievable feat of work in every sense – from its speed of construction as we’ve heard to its size and the skills of those who have created it.
An example, if ever one was needed of how the impossible can be made possible and how we can achieve the unthinkable through human will and ingenuity.
The creation of this hospital is above all the result of an extraordinary collaboration and partnership between N.H.S. managers, the military and all those involved to create a centre on a scale that has never been seen before in the United Kingdom.
To convert one of the largest national conference centres into a field hospital starting with 500 beds and with a potential of 4,000 is, quite frankly, incredible. Now I was one of the lucky ones to have COVID-19 relatively mildly.
And if I may say so, I’m so glad to see The Secretary of State has also recovered.
But for some it will be a much harder journey.
I am therefore so relieved that everyone can now have the reassurance that they will get all the necessary technical care that they may need and every chance to return to a normal life.
This hospital therefore offers us an intensely practical message of hope for those who will need it most at this time of national suffering. Let us also pray Ladies and Gentlemen, that it will be required for as short a time and for as few people as possible.
On behalf of the nation, I want to say a very big thank you to the planners, the builders, the Armed Forces, the generous companies and organisations which have donated equipment and services, and all the support staff, who have made this possible.
Also we owe an immense debt of gratitude to the doctors, the nurses, the technicians, the staff – currently working in the health service and those coming out of retirement – and the voluntary workers who will be working within it.
I can only offer my special thoughts and prayers to all those who will receive care within it and let us hope that it will not be too long before this terrible disease has left our land.
I need hardly say that the name of this hospital could not have been more aptly chosen.
Florence Nightingale, The Lady with the Lamp, brought hope and healing to thousands in their darkest hour. In this dark time, this place will be a shining light.
It is symbolic of the selfless care and devoted service taking place in innumerable settings, with countless individuals, throughout the United Kingdom.
Ladies and gentlemen, as the wonders of modern technology can only do so much – and I can’t quite reach! – perhaps I could invite Nightingale’s Head of Nursing, Natalie Grey, on my behalf, to unveil the plaque to declare N.H.S. Nightingale Hospital, open.
London has been the epicentre of coronavirus in the United Kingdom.
The virus has infected over 33,000 people across the country and claimed 2,961 lives.
The Nightingale, named after nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, will need an army of up to 16,000 staff in clinical and ancillary roles to keep it running.
Split into more than 80 wards containing 42 beds each, the facility will be used to treat Covid-19 patients who have been transferred from other intensive care units across London.
Charles recently emerged from self-isolation after being struck down by mild symptoms.
However, his 72-year-old wife Camilla remains in isolation as per government guidelines which state family members without symptoms must isolate for 14 days.
Those who have symptoms must isolate for seven.
At the time Charles was diagnosed, Clarence House said it was “not possible to ascertain” who the royal caught the virus from “owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks.”
The royal met with Prince Albert of Monaco, who later tested positive for coronavirus, on March 10.
CORONAVIRUS CRISIS – STAY IN THE KNOW
Meanwhile, the Queen, 93, remains in good health.
The monarch headed to Windsor Castle a week early amid the coronavirus crisis.
Husband Prince Philip, 98, also flew from Sandringham to Windsor to be with his wife.
Outside London, work is under way at scores of locations – from stadiums to hotel complexes – to provide what already adds up to potentially more than 10,000 extra beds.
Some regions have concentrated on large-scale facilities which will mirror the ExCeL centre development in the capital – most notably in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.
But other strategies have included developing a network of smaller field hospitals, like the wave of facilities being established across Wales.
OUR brave frontline NHS workers have been drawing on all their reserves to battle the coronavirus crisis.
And now they are calling on kids to get drawing too – to help decorate the empty walks of the new NHS Nightingale Hospital.
Email a scan or photograph of your child’s drawing to [email protected] and we will deliver it to NHS Nightingale
Include with your entry your name and age and a contact number for a parent or guardian.
Why not send a photo of you holding up your masterpiece as well?
We will print a selection in the paper and all those chosen will receive art kits.
Entries close on April 8.
The Sun today revealed a UK coronavirus test centre sat empty on Thursday as NHS trusts sent hundreds of staff swabs to Germany because the results come back twice as fast.
Just 75 workers were tested at drive-through centre Chessington World of Adventures, which shut for lunch.
Public Health England (PHE) facilities can take up to four days to test samples, say sources.
But German labs are flying in and processing swabs on the same day. NHS staff then get their results just two days later.
Total UK daily testing for the virus was 10,657 on Wednesday.
It will be weeks before we hit the 25,000 mark promised by the PM. Germany is carrying out 70,000 a day.
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Mr Hancock said he wanted 100,000 daily tests by the month’s end as part of a new “five-pillar” strategy.
It includes working with private labs to boost checks on NHS staff — and screening the public to see if they are immune from the virus.
Ministers also aim to build mass-testing facilities to meet future demand.
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