Watch: London’s ExCel conference center transformed into coronavirus hospital

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Prince Charles remotely opened a vast temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients at London’s main exhibition center Friday, as the number of coronavirus-related deaths reported in the UK surpassed China’s official total.

While confirmed virus cases and deaths continued to rise steeply, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he remained in isolation with a fever eight days after testing positive for the new virus.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

Charles, who on Monday completed a week of self-isolating as he recovered from COVID-19, said via video link that he was “enormously touched” to be asked to open the new Nightingale Hospital, which was built in just nine days at the vast ExCel conference center in east London, with corridors stretching a full kilometer (just over half a mile).

It opens with around 500 beds but when at its expected full capacity of 4,000 beds, it will be the biggest hospital facility in the UK.

The new National Health Service hospital will only care for people with COVID-19, and patients will only be assigned there after their local London hospital reaches its capacity.

The hospital is named after Florence Nightingale, who treated British and allied soldiers during the Crimean War of the 1850s and is considered to be the founder of modern nursing.

Further new hospitals are being planned across the U.K., including in Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester, to alleviate pressure on the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who also contracted COVID-19 and emerged from his own self-isolation on Thursday., said the peak of the epidemic in Britain is likely to be in the “coming weeks” and could be as soon as next weekend.

The number of virus-related deaths in Britain has sharply increased in the past two weeks. Government figures provided Friday showed that a total of 3,605 people who tested positive have died in British hospitals, an increase of 684 from a day earlier.

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