Officials are looking into setting up further field hospitals across the UK to tackle the Covid-19 coronavirus as work begins to establish a 4,000 capacity site in a London exhibition centre.

The NHS Nightingale hospital is being built into east London’s Excel conference centre, and is expected to provide 500 beds by the next week.

Now officials are looking at possible sites elsewhere in the country to bolster existing hospital services with the support of military planners.

The Army confirmed the SEC in Glasgow was being considered, while bosses at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham have said they “stand ready” to aid in the fight against the virus if called upon.

At the time the Nightingale site was announced, officials said plans will aim to provide emergency facilities for every region of the UK while deploying Ministry of Defence personnel from the Covid Support group with the goal of “filling the gap from peacetime capability to virtually a wartime one”.

The prime minister’s official spokesman also indicated that other sites were being considered when asked about potential field hospitals in Birmingham and Manchester.

“The current focus is on getting the ExCel centre up and running as the NHS Nightingale Hospital,” he said.

“But NHS England is actively preparing for a number of scenarios as the outbreak continues and is working with clinicians and teams of military planners around the country.”

Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, separately said numerous sites were being considered north of the border with the nation “on the cusp of that rapid escalation”.

It comes as more than 38,000 former healthcare professionals and soon-to-be qualified students step forward to join the fight against Covid-19 in the coming weeks.

According to the government a total of 15,266 former staff responded to a call to action from officials, with 5,117 doctors, 5,605 nurses and midwives and 3,686 pharmacists and other professionals pledging to return to the frontline of the health service

And next week, 5,750 final year medics and 17,000 final year nursing students in England will also be asked to consider starting placements with support from seasoned workers, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

Additional reporting by PA.