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From Eurovision host to coronavirus care, Rotterdam venue changes tune

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THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Rotterdam’s Ahoy concert hall had been gearing up for the glitter and glamour of next month’s Eurovision song contest - but on Wednesday it opened its doors to medics instead as the Netherlands’ newest care centre for coronavirus patients.

The venue has capacity for 680 hospital beds in its halls, normally used for concerts, trade fairs and international sports events, and the first 80 have now been installed.

“We have built it in the last two weeks and now I am organising all the nurses and doctors who are going to work here,” the newly christened Care Centre Ahoy’s director Hugo Keuzekamp told Reuters.

It is expected to open for patients on Monday, he said, and will treat people with the coronavirus or other illnesses who do not require hospital admission.

The number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands has risen rapidly since the first case was reported on Feb. 27, topping 28,000 as of Wednesday, with more than 3,100 deaths.

But in recent days reported hospital admissions have levelled off below 200 a day, leading to speculation that the Ahoy might not need to take in any patients at all.

“Well that would be good news, because ...that would mean that our (existing) care system ...is (coping),” said Saskia Baas of the Rotterdam-Rijmond health services.

The Ahoy was picked to host Eurovision after Dutch singer-songwriter Duncan Laurence won last year’s event in Tel Aviv with a song called “Arcade”. The epidemic forced organisers to call off the 2020 contest in March.

Reporting by Esther Verkaik, writing by Stephanie van den Berg; editing by John Stonestreet

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