Rapid response: China races to build more hospitals as coronavirus outbreak grows

2020-02-05 15:04

Authorities in China have glorified the rush to build two infectious disease hospitals in the matter of days at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak that has now claimed at least 490 lives on the mainland, with live streams showing the construction and the arrival of the first patients at Huoshenshan field hospital in Wuhan on Tuesday.

The 1 000-bed Huoshenshan, Fire-God Mountain, hospital and the 1 600-bed Leishenshan, or Thunder God Mountain, hospital - which will start taking patients on Thursday - have been the main focus of attention for the country's state-run media and television with round-the-clock coverage.

Less known, however, are the other hospitals now under construction elsewhere in the country to address the shortage of beds and facilities needed to treat the outbreak.

Al Jazeera has been able to identify several that have broken ground in the past week as well as many more, from larger 1 000-bed facilities to smaller, 50-bed rural clinics, that are being planned or are already under construction.

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"I don't think anyone knows the number, it could be [a lot of these] are either the county level, city level or the district level," Chen Xi, assistant professor of Public Health at Yale School of Medicine told Al Jazeera by phone.

'Glowing like a football stadium'

One construction worker at a 1 000-bed facility being built in the Gao'ling area near Xi'an in Shaanxi province, told Al Jazeera that government officials had requested they not use the Xiaotangshan name.

"We can see the new site from our window," a resident near the Xi'an facility said, also declining to allow his name to be used.

"Last night it was glowing like a football stadium. Even now we can see the cranes operating, a straight three-kilometre line away from our place."

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'Pop-up hospitals'

While the new facilities in the outbreak zone are opening in a flood of publicity, the pop-up hospitals and clinics have started to draw some criticism.

"I don't think it's a good idea and I've heard other voices against the decision also," Mr Zhao, an owner of a restaurant only 500 metres away from where the Nantong facility is being built told Al Jazeera by phone, declining to give his full name.

"There are many residential buildings here, (the treatement facilities) could pose a threat to our health," Zhao said."They should have chosen a less densely populated area. I only heard about this [Tuesday] on WeChat."

Other facilities known to have broken ground in the past few days include a 1 000-bed hospital in Shenzhen, a 300-bed facility in Xuzhou, Jiangsu, another of unknown size in Harbin, Heilongjiang, and an 80-room building being repurposed as an infectious disease hospital in Nanchang, Jiangxi.

Additional reporting assistance by Zhong Yunfan. 

Read more on:    china  |  coronavirus
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