Discussions are ongoing on how best to use the emergency coronavirus hospital at Manchester Central Convention Centre, but it is expected to remain in place for the rest of the year, according to mayor Andy Burnham.
The 190,000 sq ft temporary hospital has a capacity of 650 beds and is currently accommodating a “small number” of patients, the Greater Manchester mayor added.
Speaking at his weekly virtual press briefing, Burnham told Place North West that the centre would not revert back to its intended use any time soon. He did not reveal exactly how many beds are being used at present.
“There will be no decision to stand [the facility] down any time soon, because of the risk of a second spike,” he said.
“We have got to have that fall-back option in case there is a second spike and I think everyone will agree that the winter will be a challenging period if we are in a position where there is no vaccine.”
The MCCC opened as an emergency Covid-19 hospital in April, after architecture studio BDP designed the project and contractor Integrated Health projects, a joint venture between Vinci and Sir Robert McAlpine, carried out the conversion in a matter of weeks.
During the press briefing, Burnham also reiterated his calls to Government to provide adequate funding for public transport.
Since Sunday, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a partial lifting of lockdown restrictions, Burnham said Greater Manchester has seen a “modest increase” in the use of public transport and a 4% increase in cars on the road compared to the period before his announcement.
The Government is currently footing the bill for 75% of Metrolink Manchester’s running costs but the mayor said more money is needed to provide an increase in services on the tram network, which would enable people to social distance more effectively.
The Metrolink is currently providing services at 20-minute intervals across its network and Burnham said that some services, at particular times, were too busy for safe social distancing to take place.
He said: “We are in a difficult position when people are being told to return to work but we can’t provide extra services.”
Burnham and Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor for the Liverpool City Region, wrote a letter to Johnson warning him that it was too early to lift the lockdown restrictions in the North West.