A city centre hotel in Belfast is being transformed into a "step-down centre" for recovering Covid-19 patients.
The Ramada by Wyndham will cater for as many as 150 people discharged from hospital who still require care.
Part of a plan to reduce hospital flow, the facility is a partnership between the Belfast Trust and the private provider, Healthcare Ireland.
It will open this week for three months, with a possible extension depending on how the pandemic develops
Seven more coronavirus-related deaths were announced in Northern Ireland on Monday, bringing the total to 70, with 1,158 confirmed cases.
'Still need care'
The Talbot Street hotel will from as early as Wednesday operate as an extension of the NHS, with care overseen by the Belfast Trust, although the workers will also include those from Healthcare Ireland.
“As patients become medically fit, they’ll need to leave hospital quickly in order to offer other patients to be admitted," said Natalie Magee from the Belfast Trust.
"So having this facility will allow us to bring patients out of hospital but where they still need care, we will provide that care and that rehabilitation.”
The Ramada has undergone a rapid transformation.
Hygienic plastic sheets cover the floors and some hotel rooms have become temporary nurses’ stations with fully-stocked pharmacies.
'Trying to help'
Gilbert Yates, CEO of Healthcare Ireland, which runs 14 care homes in Northern Ireland, said he contacted government officials at Stormont offering extra beds and was given the go-ahead for the hotel.
There had to be a commercial arrangement because of the cost of leasing the hotel and providing staff, he said.
But the primary focus was relieving pressures on hospitals during the pandemic, he added.
“As a care home operator, we’re suffering greatly throughout Covid-19. Our relatives, our families and our staff as well, so we’re trying to help where we can.”