China builds new quarantine centre as virus cases rise

BEIJING (AP) — A city in northern China is building a 3,000-unit quarantine facility to deal with an anticipated overflow of patients as COVID-19 cases rise ahead of the Lunar New Year travel rush.

State media yesterday showed crews levelling earth, pouring concrete and assembling pre-fabricated rooms in farmland outside Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital of Hebei province that has seen the bulk of new cases.

That recalled scenes last year, when China rapidly built field hospitals and turned gymnasiums into isolation centres to cope with the initial outbreak.

China has largely contained further domestic spread of the coronavirus, but the recent spike has raised concerns due to the proximity to the capital Beijing and the impending rush of people planning to travel large distances to re-join their families for country’s most important traditional festival.

The National Health Commission yesterday said 1,001 patients were under care for the disease, 26 of them in serious condition. It said that 144 new cases were recorded over the past 24 hours. Hebei accounted for 90 of the new cases, while Heilongjiang province farther north reported 43.

Nine cases were brought from outside the country, while local transmissions also occurred in the southern Guangxi region and the northern province of Shaanxi, illustrating the virus’ ability to move through the vast country of 1.4 billion people despite quarantines, travel restrictions and electronic monitoring.