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China builds COVID-19 hospital in 5 days

January 16, 2021

Hit by a new wave of coronavirus cases, China has finished a 1,500-room temporary hospital in a city south of Beijing.

Medical worker takes swab of patient in Shijiazhuang
China has built a 1,500-room hospital for COVID-19 patients in just five days in NangongImage: Wang Xiao/Xinhua/picture alliance

China has built a 1,500-room hospital for COVID-19 patients in just five days after a spike of infections was reported in a city south of Beijing.

The hospital is the first of six with a total of 6,500 rooms being built in Nangong in Hebei province, the Xinhua News Agency said Saturday.

The temporary facilities are due to be completed within the next week.

Why is China building new hospitals?

Chinese health authorities have placed more than 28 million people in the northeast into lockdown as they battle a new wave of the coronavirus in Nangong and the Hebei provincial capital of Shijiazhuang.

In the past week, China has seen the number of daily cases jump to a 10-month high. On Saturday, the country reported 130 new cases. Of those cases, 115 were local infections, 90 of which were in Hebei province

Another 23 cases were found in northeastern Heilongjiang province while two cases were reported in Beijing.

Total case numbers remain far below the height of the initial outbreak in early 2020, but concerns are growing due to the Lunar New Year holiday a month away.

The 15-day celebration sees hundreds of millions of people leave cities for their ancestral homes, which could help to spread the virus.

What caused the new spike?

The National Health Commission (NHC) said on Saturday that the recent outbreaks have come from travelers entering the country or contaminated frozen food imports.

"Since Dec. 2020, epidemic clusters have occurred in Beijing, Sichuan, Liaoning, Hebei and Heilongjiang," a statement posted on the NHC's website said, citing NHC Minister Ma Xiaowei.

"They mainly have the following characteristics. Firstly, they are all imported from abroad, caused by travelers from overseas, or contaminated cold-chain imported items."

Wuhan probe underway

This surge comes as a World Health Organization-led (WHO) team of investigators are in quarantine in the city of Wuhan, where the disease was first detected in late 2019.

The team aims to investigate the origins of the pandemic that has now killed nearly 2 million people worldwide.

Authorities in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province, said late on Friday that they had completed two rounds of testing and out of 10 million people, 247 positive cases were discovered.

Meanwhile, local officials have been told not to "cry wolf" and declare that they are entering "wartime mode" amid concerns that the depiction may be premature.

While authorities have reenacted the same harsh COVID-19 prevention measures that were seen in Wuhan, the state news agency Xinhua said the pattern of the new outbreaks was not the same.

mm/rc (AP, Reuters)