BEIJING (AFP) – China on Saturday completed construction of a 1,500-room hospital for COVID-19 patients to combat a surge in infections that the government said was difficult to contain and blamed the injured or goods coming from abroad.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the hospital is one of six hospitals with a total of 6,500 rooms being built in Nangong, south of Beijing, in Hebei Province.
China has largely contained the Coronavirus, which was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, but has suffered from an increase in cases since December.
A total of 645 people are being treated in Nangong and Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei Province, Xinhua said. There is a hospital of 3,000 rooms under construction in Shijiazhuang.
Groups of viruses have also been found in Beijing and the provinces of Heilongjiang and Liaoning in the northeast, and Sichuan in the southwest.
The National Health Commission said the recent infections had spread at an unusually fast rate.
“It’s difficult to deal with,” a commission statement said. “Community transmission has already occurred when the epidemic was detected, so it is difficult to prevent it.”
In the most recent cases, the committee blamed people or goods coming from abroad. It blamed “unnatural management” and “inadequate protection of workers” involved in the imports, but gave no details.
All are imported from abroad. The statement said that the reason behind this was the entry of individuals or contamination of the cold chain with imported goods.
The Chinese government has suggested that the disease may have originated abroad and has published what it says is the discovery of the virus on imported food, most of which is frozen fish, although foreign scientists are skeptical.
Also on Saturday, the Beijing city government said that travelers arriving in the Chinese capital from abroad will be required to undergo an additional week of “medical observation” after a 14-day quarantine, but it did not provide details.
Nationwide, the Health Commission reported 130 new confirmed cases in the 24 hours to midnight Friday. She added that 90 of those were in Hebei.
On Saturday, the Hebei government reported 32 additional cases since midnight, the Shanghai News reported.
In Shijiazhuang, the authorities have completed the construction of 1,000 rooms in the planned hospital, state television reported Saturday. All the facilities are scheduled to be completed within a week, Xinhua said.
The ruling Communist Party launched a similar program for rapid hospital building at the start of the outbreak last year in Wuhan.
More than 10 million people in Shijiazhuang had tested positive for the virus by late Friday, Xinhua said, citing Deputy Mayor Meng Xianghong. It said that 247 locally transferred cases have been found.
Meanwhile, researchers sent by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Wuhan were preparing to investigate the origin of the virus. The team, which arrived on Thursday, is subject to a two-week quarantine, but was scheduled to speak with Chinese experts via a video link.
The team’s access was disrupted for several months due to diplomatic wrangling that led to a rare public complaint by the WHO chief.
The delay, and the ruling party’s secret orders to scientists not to speak publicly about the disease, have raised questions about whether Beijing might try to block discoveries that would harm its own self-declared position as a leader in the fight against the virus.