Thu | Feb 27, 2020

China building a hospital to treat virus, expands lockdowns

Published:Friday | January 24, 2020 | 8:58 AM
Heavy equipment works at a construction site for a field hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Friday, January 24, 2020. (Chinatopix via AP)

BEIJING (AP) — China announced Friday that it is swiftly building a 1,000-bed hospital dedicated to patients infected with a new virus that has killed 26 people, sickened hundreds and prompted unprecedented lockdowns of cities during the country’s most important holiday.

On the eve of the Lunar New Year, transportation was shut down in at least 13 cities home to more than 36 million people.

The cities are Wuhan, where the illness has been concentrated, and 12 of its neighbours in central China’s Hubei province.

“To address the insufficiency of existing medical resources,” Wuhan is constructing a hospital modelled after the Xiaotangshan SARS hospital in Beijing, Wuhan authorities said in a Friday notice.

The facility will be a prefabricated structure on a 25,000- square-metre lot, slated for completion February 3.

The SARS hospital was built from scratch in 2003 in just six days to treat an outbreak of a similar respiratory virus that had spread from China to more than a dozen countries and killed about 800 people.

The hospital featured individual isolation units that looked like rows of tiny cabins.

Normally bustling streets, malls and other public spaces were eerily quiet in Wuhan on the second day of its lockdown.

Masks were mandatory in public, and images from the city showed empty store shelves as people stocked up for what could be an extended isolation.

Train stations, the airport, and subways were closed; police checked incoming vehicles but did not entirely close off roads.

Entertainment venues were not spared: karaoke bars, movie theatres and Internet cafes in several parts of Hubei were shut down.

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