EMERGENCY recovery centres in Cumbria are no longer needed, as hospitals have recovered enough capacity to care for all coronavirus patients.

Following a reduction in the rate of infection, two recovery centres are to be stood down, with another two being held in reserve in case they are needed.

The wards, which were set up in sports and leisure centres, were intended to support Covid-19 patients who had been treated in hospital but were still in need of support and therapy to get back on their feet.

Recovery wards at the Sands Centre in Carlisle and the Furness Academy in Barrow will be stood down immediately, with all resources and equipment put into storage and the buildings returned to their previous use. The wards set up in Whitehaven and Kendal will remain on standby with talks ongoing about their future.

Although the government has relaxed some lockdown restrictions, Peter Rooney, chief operating officer for NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, expressed a need for caution.

“We’d just like to remind everybody that the virus is still very present," he said. "Without wanting to sound alarmist, we are all at risk of contracting the virus. It’s vital that we all play a full role in fighting the spread of this virus.”

The ward in Whitehaven Sports Centre was equipped with 60 hospital-standard beds and nurses’ stations. Mr Rooney said the centre was an achievement of Cumbria’s Local Resilience Forum partners. “We set this up in a fortnight effectively, which isn’t something we’ve done previously locally," he said.

Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Slattery, chair of the Strategic Co-ordinating Group for Cumbria, said: “We were faced with a serious challenge in March, when Government predictions indicated that the number of cases in Cumbria was expected to overwhelm the resources of our local NHS hospitals.

“The group worked urgently with military planners and local businesses to establish the recovery centres and provide additional bed capacity, whilst hoping that it would never be needed.

"Through the fantastic efforts of the two hospital Trusts in building capacity, combined with the effects of the lockdown measures, the numbers of cases were contained within hospital premises – but at times it was very close.”

Mr Rooney thanked the 160 volunteers who have been trained to provide support if needed: “The NHS is very grateful to the many members of the public who volunteered to work in the centres, and to the local organisations which helped with the development."