Lithuania to turn exhibition centre into makeshift hospital as COVID-19 cases soar

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Lithuania’s capital Vilnius is preparing to set up a 700-bed makeshift hospital in its largest exhibition centre, as the city fears its health system may soon get overloaded by coronavirus cases.

The number of daily cases has increased tenfold from a month ago.

The town is launching tenders to buy oxygen equipment and beds, and is recruiting medical staff to work at the hospital. It will take six weeks to set up, Povilas Poderskis, head of city administration, told reporters.

“We really hope the situation will not get so bad that we actually need the facility”, he said. “It’s better to be prepared even if we don’t need it, than to be unprepared when we need it.”

The city has plans to increase the total number of beds in existing hospitals for treating COVID cases to about 350, at a cost of reducing regular medical services, he said. Hospitals in Vilnius were treating 88 coronavirus patients on Wednesday.

The Litexpo exhibition centre is the largest in the Baltic states region. The three halls considered for the hospital have a total area of 6,700 square meters, according to its website.

Lithuania’s government declared a three-week lockdown on Nov. 6. The agrarian-led government is serving out the end of a lame duck term after losing an Oct. 25. general election, and a new centre-right government is due to take office in coming weeks.