China is building a new quarantine center as virus cases rise

BEIJING (AFP) – A city in northern China is building a 3,000-unit quarantine facility to deal with an expected surplus of patients as COVID-19 cases soar ahead of a travel rush in the Lunar New Year.

On Friday, state media showed crews working on leveling the ground, pouring concrete and assembling prefabricated rooms on farmland outside Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei Province that has seen the most new cases.

This brought to mind scenes last year, when China quickly constructed field hospitals and converted gymnasiums into isolation centers to deal with the initial outbreak linked to the central city of Wuhan.

China has largely contained more of the local spread of the Coronavirus, but the recent spike has raised concerns due to its proximity to the capital, Beijing and the impending rush of people planning to travel long distances to join their families in the country’s most important traditional festival.

On Friday, the National Health Commission said 1,001 patients were undergoing care for the disease, 26 of them in serious condition. She said that 144 new cases were registered in the past 24 hours. Hebei Province accounted for 90 new cases, while Heilongjiang Province, in the far north, reported 43 cases.

Nine cases were brought in from outside the country, while local transmissions have also occurred in the southern Guangxi region and northern Shaanxi Province, demonstrating the ability of the virus to transmit across the vast country of 1.4 billion people despite quarantines, travel restrictions and electronic surveillance.

Shijiazhuang has been placed under de facto lockdown, along with the cities of Xingtai and Langfang in Hebei and parts of Beijing and other cities in the northeast. This has cut off travel routes while more than 20 million people are required to stay home in the coming days.

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In all, China has reported 87,988 confirmed cases with 4,635 deaths.

The rise in northern China comes as WHO experts prepare to collect data on the origin of the epidemic after arriving Thursday in Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019. Team members must undergo a two-week quarantine before they are able to. From the start of field work. The Visits.

Two of the fifteen members have been detained in Singapore due to their health condition. The British Foreign Office announced that one of them, a British citizen, agreed to travel on Friday after testing positive for the coronavirus, while the second, a Sudanese citizen from Qatar, tested positive.

The visit was approved by President Xi Jinping’s government after months of diplomatic wrangling that led to an unusual public complaint by the WHO chief.

This delay, combined with Beijing’s tight control of information and propagating theories that the epidemic began elsewhere, has added to speculation that China is seeking to block discoveries that are destroying its own self-declared position as a leader in the battle against the virus.

Scientists believe that the virus that has killed more than 1.9 million people since late 2019 jumped to humans from bats or other animals, most likely in southwestern China.

Keiji Fukuda, a former WHO official who is not a member of the team, warned against raising expectations about any breakthroughs from the visit, saying it could take years before any firm conclusions can be reached.

“China wants to avoid blame, and maybe change the narrative,” he told the Associated Press in an interview from Hong Kong. “They want to appear as competent and transparent.”

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For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) wants to showcase the photo you “take, practice driving, pick up things and do them at the right time,” Fukuda said.

In Wuhan, life on the streets looked a little different from other Chinese cities where the virus was largely brought under control.

In a riverside park, elderly people gathered to drink and dance while residents generally praised the government’s response to the crisis.

“Other countries are not very supportive and do not care about the epidemic,” said Xiang Nan, a resident. “People are coming out arbitrarily, hanging out and huddling together, so it is very easy to get infected.” “I hope they can stay home, reduce travel … Don’t let the epidemic spread anymore.”

China is also pushing ahead with vaccinations using home-developed vaccines, with more than 9 million vaccines already and planning 50 million to get the vaccine by the middle of next month.

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Associated Press journalist Emily Wang contributed to this report.

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