China races to build more hospitals as coronavirus outbreak grows

Authorities in China have glorified the rush to build two infectious disease hospitals in a matter of days at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak that has now claimed at least 490 lives on the mainland, with live streams showing the construction and the arrival of the first patients at Huoshenshan field hospital in Wuhan on Tuesday.

The 1,000-bed Huoshenshan, or Fire-God Mountain, hospital and the 1,600-bed Leishenshan, or Thunder God Mountain, hospital – which will start taking patients on Thursday – have been the main focus of attention for the country’s state-run media, with round-the-clock coverage.

The only other hospital to receive sustained attention from China’s official media is a prefabricated isolation facility being built at an emergency hospital in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, which is just north of the major outbreak area of Hubei. There, 542 portable cabins were installed to serve as an isolation ward for coronavirus and will be ready to receive patients by mid-February.

While some have dubbed these other hospitals as local versions of Xiaotangshan, the Beijing hospital famous for treating patients during the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), there appears to be some wariness about reusing that name to avoid sparking panic.

‘Glowing like a football stadium’
One construction worker at a 1,000-bed facility being built in the Gao’ling area near Xi’an in Shaanxi province, told Al Jazeera that government officials had requested they not use the Xiaotangshan name.

“We can see the new site from our window,” a resident near the Xi’an facility said, also declining to allow his name to be used.

“Last night it was glowing like a football stadium. Even now we can see the cranes operating, a straight three-kilometre line away from our place.”

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