ARMY bosses are being consulted over locations for temporary field hospitals in Scotland, the chief medical officer has said, as it was estimated up to 50,000 people have now contracted coronavirus north of the border.

Dr Catherine Calderwood said potential sites will be considered this week in order to boost Scotland’s hospital capacity.

Meanwhile, The Herald understands Glasgow City Council is looking at relieving the pressure on hospitals caused by bed-blocking by moving patients into unoccupied hotels.

Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed there are now 894 confirmed coronavirus cases in Scotland, an increase of 175 since Wednesday.

A further three people have died, bringing the total number of deaths to 25, while 57 are in intensive care.

Dr Calderwood said the number of people confirmed to have contracted coronavirus will be a “very significant underestimate”.

She said: “We are probably looking at of the order of perhaps 40-50,000 people in Scotland who are now infected with coronavirus.

“Many of them don’t yet know that they are infected, nor indeed do they realise that they are potentially going to infect those around them.

“It’s been very encouraging to see the empty streets, and the empty shops, and the empty transport in Scotland.”

She warned it was going to be a “long haul” and urged Scots not to relax restrictions as the weekend approaches.

London’s ExCel conference centre is currently being converted into a temporary coronavirus hospital with 4,000 critical care beds.

Temporary facilities in Birmingham and Manchester are also believed to be under consideration as the health service braces for Covid-19’s peak.

Dr Calderwood said Scotland is “absolutely” looking at similar measures.

She told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “We have had quite detailed discussions very recently and I know that there are sites being considered in Scotland this week.”

At a Scottish Government press conference later, she said: “We have been in early discussion with our colleagues in the armed forces, that’s UK armed forces...and we are looking as to what we would want and need in Scotland and also where those sites would be.”

She added: “We want to have our NHS capacity as maximised as possible, and one possibility is, therefore, having temporary hospitals to increase that capacity.”

Officers from the Royal Engineers have been reportedly looking at using the SEC in Glasgow as a temporary hospital location. Facilities would be run by the NHS.

Dr Calderwood told the BBC she agreed with Dr David Chung, the vice-president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, who said Scotland is bracing for a coronavirus “tsunami”.

She said: “I think, unfortunately, that the emergency medicine doctor is absolutely right.

“We have people with mild illness, as we know 80 per cent of people – but up to 20% of people will have a much more significant illness.”

Elsewhere, she announced an extra 1.5 million face masks have been brought back into use for the protection of NHS staff.  

The tightly-fitting protective respirators were previously stockpiled because they had passed their expiry date, but have now undergone “extensive testing” to ensure they are fit to use.

Dr Calderwood said the safety of health and social care staff “is our upmost priority”.