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Chelsea open up hotel to healthcare staff

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London (AFP)

Chelsea will provide free accommodation to staff of Britain's National Health Service in a hotel at the club's Stamford Bridge stadium during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Premier League club's owner, Roman Abramovich, will fund the service that will allow medical professionals in London a chance to rest if they are unable to travel home or face long commutes.

The scheme will be put in place for two months, but could be extended if needed.

There have been 1,950 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 71 deaths in Britain.

"It was decided the best way Chelsea can assist the NHS is to provide accommodation for NHS staff. Mr Abramovich will be covering the costs of providing the accommodation," Chelsea said in a statement.

"Many of the medical staff will be working long shifts and may not be able to travel home or would otherwise have to make long commutes. Local accommodation helps maintain the health and well-being of these crucial personnel at this critical time."

Chelsea do not know when they will next return to the pitch, with the Premier League suspended until at least April 4, although that date is set to be pushed back at a meeting of Premier League clubs on Thursday.

But in the absence of football, the Blues are the latest club to make an offer of community support at a time of crisis.

Liverpool players contributed to a £40,000 ($48,000) donation from the club to help keep local foodbanks running.

Aston Villa and Brighton were among the clubs to donate food prepared for last weekend's matches to homeless charities.

Fourth-tier club Stevenage are preparing a community careline that will help isolated local residents over 70 with day-to-day needs such as delivery of food and prescriptions.

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