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February 3, 2020

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China builds new Wuhan hospital in 10 days to curb spread of epidemic

CHINA has built a makeshift hospital in 10 days in its battle against the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak in central Hubei Province.

Huoshenshan (Fire God Mountain) Hospital, delivered yesterday, is dedicated to treating patients infected with the virus.

A total of 1,400 medical staff from the armed forces are tasked with treating patients at the hospital starting from today. The medics consist of 950 from hospitals affiliated to the People’s Liberation Army Joint Logistic Support Force, and 450 from medical universities of the army, navy and air force of the PLA, who were sent to Wuhan earlier.

Replicating Beijing’s SARS treatment model in 2003, Wuhan started building two makeshift hospitals: Leishenshan (Thunder God Mountain) and Huoshenshan. On January 23, workers broke ground on Huoshenshan, with a capacity of 1,000 beds.

Amid the new hospital opening, central health authorities said they had received reports of 2,590 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 45 deaths on Saturday. All the deaths were in Hubei, the National Health Commission said yesterday.

Feeling the pinch of the outbreak, authorities decided to replicate Xiaotangshan Hospital, a temporary medical center in the northern suburbs of Beijing built in 2003. Xiaotangshan was built in just a week during the SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, outbreak.

When Fang Xiang realized his team had to finish the hospital in Wuhan in 10 days, he thought it was “mission impossible.”

“For a project of this scale, it usually takes at least two years,” said Fang, project manager of Third Construction Co of the China Construction Third Engineering Bureau. “It takes at least a month to erect a temporary building, not to mention a new hospital for infectious diseases.”

In addition, with a big number of migrant workers partaking, it is difficult to provide adequate food and shelter on-site, according to staff at the Wuhan Urban and Rural Construction Bureau.

But the “mission impossible” had to be undertaken in the face of the severe circumstances.

From January 23 to Saturday, the number of confirmed cases of infection in Wuhan rose from 495 to a staggering 4,109. This put huge pressure on local medical facilities, with beds in short supply. Many patients had to stay home for quarantine and treatment. If not handled properly, the epidemic would likely exacerbate.

Located in a sanatorium near Zhiyin Lake in southwestern Wuhan, the hospital is far from downtown areas where people normally converge. The area has sufficient transportation and pipeline systems, and existing dining halls and dormitories are ready to provide service.

Authorities spent five hours on the design and created a design draft within 24 hours. Three companies received an order to build the “Fire God Mountain”, under Third Construction Co Ltd.

“I have never participated in such an urgent task, and I have never seen so many companies involved in a single project,” said Fang’s colleague Shen Kai. “It was a tough job, but we needed to give it our best shot.”

Thousands of workers were operating more than 800 equipment simultaneously as they raced against time to save lives. They worked in shifts to complete the construction. Some only slept for four hours a day, Shen said.

Ma Jiaqiang, 47, volunteered for the project when he read about the recruitment ad for Huoshenshan Hospital on social media.

“I have been working in Wuhan. This is my home. I just had to take part.”

Ma operated a digging machine for eight hours a day at the construction site. “I feel honored to be part of this,” he said.

After the hospital work began, the public went out of their way to supervise the construction.

China’s state broadcaster has been live-streaming the round-the-clock construction progress, which instantly went viral online. With no narration or background music, the livestream videos provided audiences a real-time bird’s-eye view of the site.

Calling themselves “online supervisors,” citizens have been keeping a close eye on the project and exchanging ideas and feelings in the comments section.

They cheered when the hospital was delivered.

“Cheer up, China! I believe we can curb the epidemic,” read a typical online comment.

“Salute to the workers working round the clock,” read another.

The project is bringing hope to patients like Zhang Yue, a Wuhan resident, who has been suffering from fever for days. “It feels like seeing the sunlight shining through the dark clouds.”


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