AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Ahoy concert hall in Rotterdam should have hosted the glitter and glamour of the Eurovision song contest in May, but instead is now being turned into an emergency hospital to help the Netherlands battle its coronavirus outbreak.
On Monday, work began on installing the first 88 of a possible 680 hospital beds in the halls of Ahoy, normally used for big concerts, trade fairs and international sports events.
Instead of its usual crowd of pop music and sports fans, Ahoy will open its doors from mid-April to people suffering from the coronavirus or other illnesses who need care but do not have to be admitted to a hospital.
This should help alleviate the pressure on hospitals in the Netherlands, where the number of coronavirus infections has risen rapidly since the first case was reported on Feb. 27.
As of Monday, there were 11,750 confirmed coronavirus infections in the country, with 864 deaths.
The Dutch National Institute for Public Health said on Sunday that intensive care units in Dutch hospitals could reach peak capacity in the coming two weeks at the current rate of infections.
To keep hospitals from overflowing, emergency wards for coronavirus and other patients are also being installed in hotels across the country of 17 million people.
Only last month, Ahoy drew more than 100,000 spectators to the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament and in recent months has hosted concerts by international stars such as Pink and 50 Cents.
However, Ahoy saw its most anticipated event of the year scrapped two weeks ago, when the coronavirus pandemic forced the Eurovision song contest organizers to cancel an event that would have drawn tens of thousands of spectators in mid-May.
Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Gareth Jones and Andrew Heavens