Coronavirus outbreak: Hospital to be built in five days as death toll rises in China

China is building a new 1,000-bed hospital in five days to treat victims of the new deadly coronavirus.

Work has started on the building in the central city of Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak – in the style of a facility Beijing constructed during the SARS epidemic 17 years ago.

Machinery including 35 diggers and 10 bulldozers arrived at the site on Thursday night, with the aim of it being ready by Monday.

“The construction of this project is to solve the shortage of existing medical resources,” the official Changjiang Daily reported.

“Because it will be prefabricated buildings, it will not only be built fast but it also won’t cost much.”

It comes as the coronavirus death toll in China increased to 26 and the number of confirmed cases to 880.

Lockdowns to contain the new virus have been extended to at least 10 cities – including nine in Hubei province – effectively isolating 33 million people.

Restrictions include the suspension of public transport services, while some cities have also shut public venues such as temples and cinemas.

Authorities have warned of and more stringent and targeted measures.

“The spread of the virus has not been cut off. Local authorities should take more responsibility and have a stronger sense of urgency,” state broadcaster CCTV said.

Where did the outbreak start and how far has it spread?

The virus, first detected in Wuhan last month, has since spread to at least 30 provinces across mainland China, including cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

The first two deaths outside Hubei have been confirmed.

An 80-year-old with coronavirus died in northern Hebei province after returning from a two-month stay in Wuhan to see relatives. Heilongjiang province in the northeast has also confirmed a fatality.

Where in China are the restrictions?

China is taking unprecedented steps to contain the coronavirus outbreak, as millions of people prepare to travel domestically and abroad for its lunar New Year celebrations this weekend.

Officials have warned people to avoid crowds during the holidays.

In Wuhan, the airport and train station have been shut down and ferry, underground and bus services halted, while its 11 million residents have been ordered to wear masks in public places and at work.

“There’s so much news, so much data, every 10 minutes there’s an update, it’s frightening, especially for people like us in a severely hit area,” said Lily Jin, 30, a resident of Wuhan. “Even if you’re not ill you’ll frighten yourself into getting sick.”

Similar measures are being enforced in the city of Huanggang, which has a population of six million, as bus and train services are suspended and cinemas and internet cafes told to shut.

Public transport restrictions have been imposed in Yichang city. In Zhijiang – a district-level city within Yichang, all public venues have been shut down except hospitals, supermarkets, farmers’ markets, petrol stations and pharmacies.

Bus services in the cities of Chibi, Xiantao, Qianjiang, Xianning and Huangshi have been suspended.

Ezhou city has shut its train stations, and indoor entertainment venues as well as buses have been shut in Enshi city.

The port city of Haikou, the capital of the southern resort island province of Hainan, has shut cultural and tourist facilities such as libraries and museums.

Walt Disney’s Shanghai Disney Resort is to close its doors from Saturday, and some sections of the Great Wall near Beijing.

Beijing’s Lama Temple, where people traditionally go to make offerings for the new year, has been closed. The Forbidden City, the capital’s most famous tourist attraction, is also shut to visitors until further notice.

Those returning to the Chinese capital from affected areas have been told to stay at home for 14 days to prevent the spread of the virus.

Is it a global health emergency?

Not yet.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the outbreak an emergency but said it was “too early” to consider it a “public health emergency of international concern” given “its restrictive and binary nature”.

WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Make no mistake, though, this is an emergency in China.

“But it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one.”

What do we know about the new virus?

There is no vaccine for the new viral infection, which can cause pneumonia and can be passed from person to person.

The symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.

Though the origin of the virus has yet to be identified, the WHO has said the primary source is probably an animal.

The Chinese government this week released a breakdown of 17 people killed by the deadly virus.

All but two of the 13 men and four women were aged over 60. Ten of the victims had a pre-existing condition.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to severe diseases such as SARS – which killed nearly 800 people during the 2002-03 outbreak.

When a new strain emerges that has not yet been identified, as with the current outbreak, it becomes known as a novel coronavirus (nCoV).

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What about the rest of the world?

Overseas, five cases have been found in Thailand, three in Singapore, two in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and the autonomous region of Macau, and one each in the US and Taiwan.

In Singapore, schools have asked parents to declare their overseas holiday plans as authorities screen travellers at air, land and sea checkpoints to combat the spread of the deadly virus.

Airports around the world – including in Dubai, Australia and South Africa – have stepped up screening of travellers arriving from affected regions.

In the UK, 14 people have been checked for coronavirus – five tested negative and nine are still waiting for results, Public Health England said.

Measures are also in force in the UK to guard against the virus, including taking aircraft to a special designated area of Heathrow’s Terminal 4.

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