China has started work on a 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan as overwhelmed facilities in the area are scrambling to treat the hundreds of cases of coronavirus that’s killed at least 26 people. The plans, announced Friday, will “address the insufficiency of existing medical resources,” and should be completed by Feb. 3, officials said.
The hospital will be located on the outskirts of a city in an area originally intended to house local workers and will be constructed with prefabricated buildings to speed up the process, according to state media. Equipment had already begun arriving at the site by Thursday night. Chinese State Construction Engineering said it was sending over 100 workers to the site to get started.
In 2003, Beijing managed to build the Xiaotangshal hospital in a week to help combat the deadly SARS outbreak that killed nearly 800 people as it spread through China and other countries. That hospital treated nearly 700 SARS patients, according to Reuters, but was built amid criticism over the country’s handling of the outbreak and initial cover-up that officials are aiming to avoid this time.
The new construction comes as hospitals in Wuhan pleaded for donations of masks, goggles, gowns and other medical gear to help deal with the thousands seeking screening for the novel coronavirus, which can be transmitted between humans.
There is no vaccine to protect against the virus, although the National Institutes of Health confirmed to Fox News earlier this week that they were in the “early stages” of developing one, and officials are hoping a lockdown placed on 13 cities will help contain the virus from spreading further.
As of Friday, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, the U.S. and Vietnam had all confirmed cases of the pneumonia-like virus. Officials had also recently confirmed two deaths that occurred outside of Hubei, including a 36-year-old man. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that while the outbreak was an emergency in China, it did not yet warrant a declaration of a global health emergency.
Authorities in China had also canceled or shut down Lunar New Year celebrations in Beijing and elsewhere in a bid to discourage millions from taking to the skies or rail to travel for the occasion. Earlier this week, Wuhan’s transportation hubs had been shuttered and officials mandated that masks be worn in public. Authorities in 12 other cities have also shut down transportation, estimated to impact up to 36 million people.
Other countries, including the U.S., had issued travel warnings to citizens in a bid to discourage visits to the Wuhan region. Several also stepped up screening at airports for travelers arriving from the Wuhan region, but one woman claiming to have skirted the temperature screening sparked fears that there may be gaps in the system.
The woman, who allegedly bragged on social media that she used medicine to lower her fever before passing through the screening, was reportedly tracked down by the Chinese embassy in Paris after she began posting to social media. She reportedly no longer has a fever or cough but will undergo further testing, according to BBC News.
It’s also possible that not all patients are exhibiting the same symptoms, sparking fears of potential super-spreaders skating through screenings.
“It’s very hard to wall this in once it starts,” Dr. Mehmet Oz told Fox & Friends. “It takes maybe a week for symptoms to arise after you’re infected, so if you’re on a plane and the person next to you has the virus and they get pulled in to quarantine, you’re still going to be walking through there.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.