VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Convention Centre was bustling with activity Thursday as workers prepped the iconic building to serve as a makeshift hospital, if necessary, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health officials hope the convention centre will never need to be used for medical care, but they're preparing it nonetheless, as the rate of coronavirus infections continues to grow slowly in B.C., but surges in other parts of the country.

Within a week, there will be 271 hospital beds available at the convention centre, ready for use in exhibition halls A, B and C.

Vancouver Coastal Health calls the convention centre an "alternate care centre," which will be used for patients who require hospitalization, but don't have COVID-19. It will not be open for walk-in patients, only for those brought in through a hospital.

When it's ready, the alternate care centre will have most of the same supplies as a regular hospital, including a pharmacy and even some basic surgical spaces. Everything but life support and critical care will be included.

The facility will be ready by April 8, VCH said in a release.

The convention centre won't be used as a hospital unless it's needed, and there won't be any medical staff at the facility unless it's activated.

When CTV News Vancouver asked how full hospitals have to be before they send patients to the alternate care centre, officials said they're still working that out.

The facility could be opened to serve as few as a dozen patients, and is scalable depending on demand, VCH said, adding that essential visitor restrictions currently in place at hospitals around the province will apply at the convention centre as well, if it's opened.

As of Thursday, there were 149 people in hospital with COVID-19 in B.C., including 68 in intensive care. A total of 1,121 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in B.C., but health officials have said the true number of infections - including mild cases that haven't been confirmed through testing and infections that haven't been detected yet - is higher than that.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Penny Daflos