- The Chinese city of Wuhan is rushing to build a new hospital in just six days to treat patients of the deadly coronavirus.
- Excavation has started at a site in Wuhan, where the outbreak started, and where doctors describe an overwhelmed medical system.
- The city, and at least nine others, have had their public-transport links shut off, leaving a combined 30 million people quarantined in a bid to stop the virus from spreading further.
- Wuhan's strategy mirrors Beijing's efforts to control the deadly SARS coronavirus outbreak in 2003, when it built a hospital in just seven days that treated one-seventh of the country's patients.
It’s basically a quarantined hospital where they send people with infectious diseases so it has the safety and protective gear in place,” Joan Kaufman, a lecturer at Harvard Medical School, told the BBC.
“China has a record of getting things done fast, even for monumental projects like this,” Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the BBC. Because it is an authoritarian country, China can overcome bureaucracy and financial constraints and mobilize a large workforce quickly, added Huang, who is also a professor at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. “Engineering work is what China is good at. They have records of building skyscrapers at speed. This is very hard for Westerners to imagine. It can be done.”
People with the 2019-nCoV virus develop flu-like symptoms that can lead to pneumonia, including a fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Existing hospitals and “fever clinics” in Wuhan and other cities have been overwhelmed by people exhibiting symptoms and seeking treatment; especially as the country has locked down Wuhan and a total of 56 million residents in quarantine. Construction of the new medical facilities is one of many measures the Chinese government is taking to address the spread of the virus, along with closing tourist destinations such as Shanghai Disneyland and Beijing’s Forbidden City.
On Saturday, the People’s Daily reported that Wuhan plans to build a second hospital, Leishenshan Hospital, designed to accommodate 1,300 patients. The target occupancy date for that project is mid-February.
Government leaders say the process for both projects is modeled on a hospital that China built in 2003 to treat patients during an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). That facility, the Xiaotangshan Hospital, was built in Beijing in seven days and eventually was the location where one-seventh of the country’s SARS patients were treated. At the time, the project set a world record for hospital construction.
More than 4,000 people worked day and night to build the SARS hospital in 2003, according to news reports at the time. In addition to patient wards, it had an X-ray room, intensive care unit, laboratory and other medical facilities, and according to officials, Wuhan’s hospitals will be comparable in size to the 2003 facility.