Beijing reopens makeshift hospital in preparation of Covid surge
China is battling its worst outbreak since the pathogen first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019, with the lockdown imposed on Shanghai’s residents one of the longest and most punishing.
Beijing on Sunday reopened a makeshift hospital last used during the Sars epidemic in 2003 and set aside 4,000 hospital beds amid the ongoing Covid outbreak in the city, which has led to tightening of social distancing rules and banning of restaurant dining.
Beijing began fresh rounds of mass testing on Sunday with the residents of Chaoyang district, the city’s most populous and worst-hit district, queuing up for their fourth round in less than a week.
Beijing also shut down the Universal Studios theme park and ordered residents to provide proof of a negative Covid test to enter public venues in what seems to be pre-emptive restrictions as case numbers remain low.
In Shanghai, some residents were allowed to venture out after the city reported a second day of zero infections outside quarantine areas.
The city reported 788 confirmed locally transmitted Covid-19 cases and 7,084 local asymptomatic infection cases on Saturday, the municipal health commission said on Sunday. It reported 37 new deaths on Saturday.
The local government has stressed on continued strict implementation of the epidemic control requirements in the three categories: areas under lockdown, control, and precaution.
In Beijing, so far, about 4,000 beds have been reserved for Covid infections and more venues are being transformed into large-scale makeshift hospitals in case of need, Li Ang, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Health Commission, told a press conference on Saturday.
“Beijing reopens Xiaotangshan makeshift hospital for Covid patients from Sunday amid latest flare-up,” state-run Global Times reported on Sunday.
Work on reconstructing Beijing’s Xiaotangshan Hospital began in January 2020 with the first wave of the Covid outbreak. The hospital was built in 2003 in a week to treat Severe acute respiratory syndrom (Sars) patients but decommissioned in 2010.
“The makeshift hospitals are built to treat mild cases and asymptomatic carriers, which is an effective means to block the spread of the epidemic. It’s also vital to reduce overuse of medical resources and ensure that citizens get medical treatment in time,” said Li.
Li added that residents need not panic as there are currently “not so many patients in Beijing, but we should plan ahead”.
Beijing reported 51 locally transmitted confirmed cases and four asymptomatic cases on Sunday, local media reported/
A negative nucleic acid test result was required to enter public venues during the Labour Day holiday. Restrictions and checks will continue after the holidays end.
After the holiday, workers and students will need to present a negative Covid test - taken within the previous 48 hours - to return to work or school.
Also, starting from May 5, residents and commuters have to furnish a negative Covid test, taken with the previous week, to enter all public venues or before using public transport.
City residents will be required to take a nucleic acid test at least once a week, officials have said.
Other Chinese metropolises including Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hangzhou have announced similar guidelines under which tourists and local residents will require a negative Covid test result to access public venues and transport systems.