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China scrambles to build hospital in 10 days

World | 2020-01-25 18:37:30
China scrambles to build hospital in 10 days
China is scrambling to build a 1,000-bed hospital in just 10 days as authorities grapple with the spiralling outbreak of a virus that has left at least 41 dead, and infected hundreds of others.

The mobile facility in the central city of Wuhan, birthplace of the Coronavirus epidemic, is expected to be in use by February 3.

State TV showed a flurry of activity at the construction site where dozens of brightly coloured diggers and trucks were hard at work.

"We've mobilised all the workers left in Wuhan to work in shifts to ensure round-the-clock construction," said Zhang Chongxi, manager of building group Wuhan Construction.

The hospital will have a capacity of 1,000 beds spread over 25,000 square metres (270,000 square feet), the official Xinhua news agency said.

Xinhua said the new facility is aimed at "alleviating the shortage of medical treatment resources and improving the ability to care for patients".

Construction began amid reports of overwhelmed hospitals and bed shortages as the number of infected patients in the country reached 830.

SARS hospital at short notice

China has form in building hospitals at short notice. In 2003 the Xiaotangshan Hospital was built in barely a week to cater to patients suffering from SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed 349 people in mainland China and 299 in Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Wuhan is believed to be using the prefabricated structures of Xiaotangshan Hospital as a template for its own model.

Wuhan has to date been centralising its treatment of the new virus by isolating patients in 61 clinics and designated hospitals.

Forty military doctors were being brought in to help with intensive care at the Wuhan Pulmonary Hospital, state TV reported Friday. The medics include doctors with experience combating SARS or Ebola and will be dispatched to hospitals that are reportedly short on beds due to a crush of infected patients and worried locals.

In a sign that the city is feeling the pressure, Hubei governor Jiang Chaoliang said in a meeting Friday that Wuhan must "make every effort to increase isolation places and designated hospital beds", according to a statement on the government's website.

Chinese officials believe the Coronavirus originated from wild animals at a seafood market in Wuhan, but it has since spread to several countries around Asia and beyond.

The outbreak has prompted authorities in at least eight Chinese cities to impose travel restrictions and cancel public events to curb the spread, as millions go on lockdown ahead of Chinese New Year.

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