Ministers 'preparing plans for temporary mortuaries and to convert hotel rooms into hospital wards'

News that the government is preparing plans to build temporary mortuaries and to convert hotel rooms into hospital wards to deal with the impact of coronavirus, plus a call for changes to urban planning to deal with future pandemics, feature in today's newspaper round-up.

An article in The Guardian suggests that the coronavirus outbreak "may be just the beginning of mass pandemics" as global urbanisation increases habitat and biodiversity loss features in today's newspaper round-up. It asks whether COVID-19 is the "tip of the iceberg" and looks at whether our destruction of nature is responsible for the outbreak. It investigates why deadly diseases new to humans have emerged from biodiversity “hotspots” such as tropical rainforests and bushmeat markets in African and Asian cities. Two experts in veterinary infectious diseases and human settlements are quoted calling for "an overhaul of current approaches to urban planning and development” given that "new infectious diseases will likely continue to spread rapidly into and within cities". 

Hotels are planning to convert bedrooms into hospital wards to help relieve the over-stretched NHS, according to The Guardian. "Best Western Great Britain, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Travelodge and Whitbread's Premier Inn chain are among the operators talking through the logistics of closing their hotels to the public so rooms can be given to vulnerable groups at enhanced risk of contracting coronavirus," the newspaper reports.

Also in The Guardian, it emerges that the government is "co-ordinating plans for a network of temporary mortuaries to cope with the rising death toll" from coronavirus. "The structures will be located in the worst hit areas of the country as part of planning for what the Cabinet Office described as 'the reasonable worst-case scenario', which could see existing facilities overwhelmed," the report reads. Councils are engaged in the planning as part of local resilience forums, it adds.

Another report in The Guardian highlights the crisis facing the high street as a result of the impact of coronavirus, which Next chief executive Simon Wolfson calls "unprecedented in living memory". The newspaper says Next is planning for a sales hit of up to a £1bn in the year ahead as the UK prepares for lockdown to try to slow the spread of the virus. "But we believe that our balance sheet and margins mean that we can weather the storm," adds Wolfson.


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