Bernabéu becomes hub for battle against COVID-19

Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, the home of Spanish LaLiga football club Real Madrid, will be utilised as a hub for the supply and distribution of strategic medical supplies as part of the effort to combat COVID-19 in the capital.

Spain has the world’s second-highest number of deaths from the virus, behind only Italy, with the Health Ministry yesterday (Thursday) confirming a further 655 fatalities, bringing the total to 4,089. The number of confirmed cases stands at 56,188.

Earlier this week, the leader of Madrid’s regional government, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, publicly thanked Real for a “big donation in health materials” after talks with the club’s president, Florentino Pérez. City rival Atlético de Madrid has also made a donation to the cause, but now Real has gone one step further by teaming up with Spain’s High Council for Sport (CSD) in the Bernabéu venture.

The Bernabéu, which is in the midst of a major redevelopment project, will offer a space that is equipped to store the donations of medical supplies required in the fight against the pandemic. All of the stored supplies will be passed on to the Spanish health authorities, under the oversight of the Spanish government, so that the resources are employed in the best and most efficient manner.

In addition, Real Madrid will provide a facility for organisations and businesses, particularly those belonging to the sports sector, to leave money or material donations that they wish to make to the Ministry of Health. This initiative is in addition to those which, pursuing similar outreach aims, may be established by the government.

Through the mechanisms already in place and under the constant supervision of the lead medical supplies centre in the Madrid town of Valdemoro, the Ministry of Health will be responsible for allocating the donations to the centres and organisations in greatest need.

The Bernabéu joins other Madrid venues that have been adapted in the battle against COVID-19. A field hospital with 5,000 beds has been developed in the IFEMA conference centre, while the Palacio de Hielo has been converted into a morgue.

Sports venues across the world have been pivoting their operations in an effort to help local services fight COVID-19. In what is believed to be the first such move by NBA basketball and NHL ice hockey arenas, Chicago’s United Center has said it will transform into a logistics hub assisting front line food distribution, first responder staging and the collection of critically needed medical supplies.

A statement read: “As Illinois goes through this together, the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks, is proud to be playing a critical role with our city, state and federal response to the pandemic.

“On behalf of the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, our athletes, our front offices and our dedicated United Center personnel, our thoughts and support are with the people of this great city and state. Together, we will get through this.”

A spokesman told the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper that the transition should be in full effect by next week. The arena has not been utilised since the Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks 6-2 on March 11. Hawks and Bulls chairmen Rocky Wirtz and Jerry Reinsdorf, respectively, have committed to pay day-of-game arena employees through the remainder of the initially scheduled season.

In India, a number of leading cricket venues have been offered up. The Assam Cricket Association (ACA) has said it is willing to convert its 40,000-capacity Barsapara Stadium into quarantine centres, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi implementing a 21-day nationwide lockdown on Tuesday.

Earlier, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president, Sourav Ganguly, offered Eden Gardens’ indoor facility and the players’ dormitory to the West Bengal government to create a temporary medical facility.

The iconic 66,000-capacity stadium is operated by the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), which Ganguly previously led. The former India captain told the Press Trust of India news agency: “If the government asks us, we will certainly hand over the facility. Anything that is need of the hour, we will do it. There is absolutely no problem.”

In Uruguay, the historic Estadio Centenario has been opened as a home for homeless people deemed to be most at risk from COVID-19. The 60,000-capacity stadium in Montevideo will house 28 men who have chronic diseases such as diabetes, HIV and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The EFE news agency, citing sources from the Ministry of Social Development (Mides), said the men will stay at the stadium for the duration of the health emergency.

English League One football club Plymouth Argyle has teamed up with the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust to make Home Park Stadium available for routine NHS services during the COVID-19 response period.

With football suspended until April 30 at the earliest, and staff working from home, the club has made its Mayflower Grandstand available for the NHS to use for their community antenatal and phlebotomy (over 16) services. The NHS moved equipment into the ground yesterday and will begin patient consultations next week.

Local GP and associate medical director for primary care at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, Dr Jonathan Cope, said: “The move to temporarily relocate lower risk, mobile services away from Derriford Hospital and GP practices is intended to allow for the continuation of important clinical interactions, without creating additional footfall to the traditional sites.

“The task of converting the Grandstand into a temporary clinic has been a team effort. Planning and delivering this in little over a week is a breath-taking achievement and testament to the strong partnership working between the club and the local NHS.”