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Northern Ireland

Coronavirus: Military Advising Over Design Of Northern Ireland Hospital

Anonymous Army medic uniform sleeves

Health chiefs in Northern Ireland are listening to military advice for the design of a Nightingale hospital, but have not yet asked for personnel on the ground.

The Armed Forces have been involved in building NHS Nightingale facilities and transporting medical supplies across the UK during the coronavirus pandemic.

The facility at the Maze would be Northern Ireland's second Nightingale hospital, after a 230-bed ward at Belfast City Hospital's tower block. 

The Department of Health said it is currently receiving advice from the military on the "design and specification of a Nightingale facility for a second wave of COVID-19 admissions".

A spokesman said: "The MOD [Ministry of Defence] is also ready to help in the event that the health service requires immediate assistance to transport patients, staff or equipment at short notice.

"Further specific requests for assistance will be made as necessary."

Earlier this month, Health Minister Robin Swann confirmed he had made two requests for military assistance in Northern Ireland. 

Mr Swann asked for the Armed Forces' help in transporting equipment across NI, as well as assisting with the development of a further Nightingale facility. 

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill claimed he had "acted unilaterally", without consulting executive colleagues, but said she would not stand in the way of necessary measures to save lives and protect the public.

Latest predictions suggest the region could see 1,500 coronavirus deaths in the first 20 weeks of the pandemic - a decrease of 1,500 from previous estimations.