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China building a hospital to treat virus, expands lockdowns

Last Updated Jan 24, 2020 at 6:51 am PDT

FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, photo, a staff member wearing a hazardous materials suit hauls a bin at a hospital that reported a coronavirus death in Yichang in central China's Hubei Province. China 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. (Chinatopix via AP)
Summary

China is building a hospital dedicated to treating patients infected with the new coronavirus as more people get sick

At least 10 Chinese cities are locked down as public health workers in China work to stop the spread of new coronavirus

More than two dozen people have died from the new coronavirus outbreak

BEIJING — 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 neighbors in central China’s Hubei province.

“To address the insufficiency of existing medical resources,” Wuhan is constructing a hospital modeled 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-meter (270,000-square-foot) lot, slated for completion Feb. 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 theaters and internet cafes in several parts of Hubei were shut down.

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Hospitals in Wuhan were grappling with a flood of patients and a lack of supplies. Videos circulating online showed throngs of frantic people in masks lined up for checks. Some users on the Weibo social media site said their family members had sought diagnoses but were turned away at hospitals that were at capacity.

At least eight hospitals in Wuhan issued public calls for donations of masks, goggles, gowns and other protective medical gear, according to notices online. Administrators at Wuhan University People’s Hospital set up a group chat on the popular WeChat messaging app to coordinate donations.

The “Fever Control Command Center” of the city of Huanggang also put out a call for donations publicized by the state-run People’s Daily, asking for medical supplies, medicine and disinfection equipment. The notice added that at the moment they wouldn’t accept supplies from foreign countries.