ARMY Helicopters were seen landing at Aintree, prompting speculation the racecourse may be used as a field hospital for coronavirus patients.
Two helicopters were spotted landing at the home of the Grand National in Merseyside on Wednesday, after the annual event was cancelled earlier in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Soldiers were seen scouting out the area of the world famous racecourse, situated just a mile from Aintree Hospital.
Although unconfirmed, the military's presence has raised speculation that the site will be used as a field hospital to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
It comes as a further 563 people died from coronavirus in 24 hours – the biggest daily jump since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
The new deaths bring the UK's total fatalities to 2,352, with around 29, 474 confirmed cases, according to the Department for Health (DfH).
Meanwhile, various venues around the country are being transformed into makeshift facilities, in order to cope with an expected rise in coronavirus cases and deaths.
Among them are east London's Excel centre – now named as one of three NHS Nightingale hospitals in the UK – was set up by Army personnel and will be part-run by army medics.
London's NHS Nightingale, which will start taking patients this week, has space for 4,000 beds, two morgues and various other facilities across two 1km halls.
A testing site for NHS staff has also been created at Chessington World of Adventures in south-west London.
Other large spaces in Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow are being scouted to become makeshift hospitals and mortuaries.
NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens confirmed the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), close to Birmingham Airport, will start with up to 500 beds equipped with the capacity to increase beds up to 2,000 if needed.
Last Friday, bosses at nearby Birmingham Airport confirmed Hangar 2 would be turned into a makeshift mortuary large enough to hold 1,500 bodies.
And a third Nightingale hospital, based at the Manchester Central Complex, will provide up to 500 beds but could expand further to 1,000 beds for coronavirus patients across the North West of England.
Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced earlier this week that the SEC was being turned into a hospital and should be operational within a fortnight.
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After the real Grand National at Aintree was cancelled on March 17, due to the global coronavirus pandemic, a new virtual race will be run in its place.
This will be the fourth year the Virtual Grand National has been broadcast and the race is decided by a series of algorithms and simulations.
In a statement, the racecourse's organisers said: "The Jockey Club has announced that The Randox Health Grand National Festival will not take place between Thursday 2 and Saturday 4 April this year.
"Following the Government’s new public health guidance regarding avoiding social contact and stopping non-essential travel, and its statement that emergency services are withdrawn from supporting mass gatherings from tomorrow, the Jockey Club has decided that it is no longer appropriate to stage the event.
"Jockey Club Racecourses, which runs Aintree and several of the UK’s leading racecourses, had been assessing the feasibility of running the world’s most famous Steeplechase behind closed doors with minimal staff on site, but the latest government information on the measures needed to contain the virus have led it to believe this is no longer a viable consideration."
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