By Katya Golubkova

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A temporary hospital in St Petersburg with just over 1,000 beds for coronavirus patients will open in the city’s Lenexpo exhibition centre by the end of the week, RIA news agency reported late on Thursday.

St Petersburg, Russia’s second biggest city, had reported 2,700 coronavirus cases and 20 deaths as of Friday. Russia as a whole had nearly 70,000 confirmed cases and 615 deaths.

To help Russia’s health system cope with the outbreak, hospitals across the country, including private ones, are being asked to turn their focus on the coronavirus outbreak.

The defence ministry is also building 16 brand new hospitals across the country, including the central regions of Moscow and St Petersburg to the south and Volga river areas, as well as in Siberia and far east. The ministry expects the new hospitals to be fully ready by mid-May.

In a TV footage released late last night, RIA showed the final preparation works at the Lenexpo conference centre, where one of the concourses was filled with thin-walled cubicles containing two beds each.

Nikolai Linchenko, St Petersburg deputy governor, told a local TV station separately this week that the hospital would be focused on patients with a light form of coronavirus and who can not undergo a medical treatment at home.

Lenexpo hosted the annual St Petersburg International Economic Forum, the “Russian Davos”, until 2016, attended by top executives from global companies such as oil major BP, energy firm Eni, and the U.S. lender Citibank.

(Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Additional reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)