Coronavirus: GMEX to be transformed into hospital, say Burnham and Leese

Manchester’s Central Convention Complex (G-MEX) will be transformed into a ‘Nightingale’ field hospital to help treat coronavirus sufferers. 

Mayor Andy Burnham was joined at his weekly press briefing by Sir Richard Leese, leader of the Manchester City Council and executive of the healthcare portfolio, who delivered the message that GMEX would be used to house patients who do not need access to intensive care but are too sick to be discharged.

The complex would add 500 hospital beds to the area, and will be up and running by April 12, less than two weeks from today.

This is in response to a massive increase in confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Manchester, which rose to 901 as of March 31. Coronavirus patients now occupy around one third of Manchester’s hospital beds.

However, out of 400 patients with the virus in hospital beds, only 31 have needed to be placed on ventilators.

“Greater Manchester stands ready to help in a national effort to get testing capacity up to the level that is required,” said Burnham, adding that Greater Manchester’s universities are working in close cooperation with the NHS to mobilise qualified staff and utilise laboratory space to aid national testing.

Burnham stated that although Greater Manchester was well prepared to deal with the consequences of the pandemic, he anticipated that the coming weeks would not be easy.

Having urgently called in recent weeks for increased access to PPE for social and health services in Manchester, the mayor reported that the amount of equipment made available by national government and at the local level had improved, putting local services in a position to continue operating at high standards.

However, he continued to emphasise that in order for people to return to work, stabilising the economy, and for medical care providers to prepare themselves to deal with additional patients, national testing for the virus must be vastly increased.

Mayor Burnham also offered clarity for residents whose children continue to attend school. 

Schools in the ten boroughs will remain open on the same basis during the Easter holidays, meaning that children of key workers, and children whose access to school meals is an essential part of their nutrition will continue to go into school during what would ordinarily be a holiday period.

Offering an update on the homeless population of Greater Manchester, Burnham reported that over 500 people had been housed in hotel rooms in order to give them safe spaces to self-isolate, and take shelter, as part of the effort to offer housing to the best part of 1,000 homeless and rough sleepers during this crisis.

Burnham has high hopes that even once the current crisis has been mitigated or solved, the homeless of Manchester will continue to be given access to safe shelter.

He pointed out that if the homeless can be housed in the midst of an international health crisis, there is no reason why they cannot be housed once order is restored.

Due to the unprecedented low usage of public transport, all trams will now run at 20-minute intervals, so as to sustain service for key workers, while adjusting to the new low tide of patronage on metrolink services.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority has also given large sums of money to the ten boroughs’ bus companies for the months of March and April, in order to sustain bus links for key workers to hospitals and other NHS buildings.

Resources remain available online for those seeking official guidelines for businesses, people hoping to volunteer and do their part to help locally, and the latest official medical advice.

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