China Builds New Quarantine Center 01/15 06:54
BEIJING (AP) -- A city in northern China is building a 3,000-unit quarantine
facility to deal with an anticipated overflow of patients as COVID-19 cases
rise ahead of the annual Lunar New Year travel rush.
State media on Friday showed crews leveling earth, pouring concrete and
assembling prefabricated rooms in farmland in an outlying part of Shijiazhuang,
the provincial capital of Hebei province, which has seen the bulk of the new
That recalled scenes from early last year, when China rapidly built field
hospitals and turned gymnasiums into isolation centers to cope with a
then-spiraling outbreak in Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in late
The spike in northern China comes as a World Health Organization team
prepares to collect data on the origin of the pandemic in Wuhan, which lies to
the south. The international team, most of which arrived Thursday, must undergo
two weeks of quarantine before it can begin field visits.
Two of the 15 members were held up in Singapore over their health status.
One, a British national, was approved for travel Friday after testing negative
for the coronavirus, while the second, a Sudanese citizen from Qatar, again
tested positive, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
China has largely contained domestic spread of the virus, but the recent
spike has raised concern due to the proximity to the capital, Beijing, and the
impending rush of people planning to travel large distances to rejoin their
families for the Lunar New Year, the country's most important traditional
The National Health Commission said Friday that 1,001 patients were under
care for the disease, 26 in serious condition. It said 144 new cases were
recorded over the past 24 hours. Hebei accounted for 90 of the new cases, while
Heilongjiang province farther north reported 43.
Local transmissions also occurred in the southern Guangxi region and the
northern province of Shaanxi, illustrating the virus's ability to move through
the vast country of 1.4 billion people despite quarantines, travel restrictions
and electronic monitoring.
To date, China has reported 87,988 confirmed cases with 4,635 deaths.
Shijiazhuang has been placed under virtual lockdown, along with the Hebei
cities of Xingtai and Langfang, parts of Beijing and other cities in the
northeast. That has cut off travel routes, while more than 20 million people
have been told to stay home for the coming days.
China is pushing ahead with inoculations using Chinese-developed vaccines,
with more than 9 million people already vaccinated and plans for 50 million to
have shots by the middle of next month.
About 4,000 doses are delivered daily to the Chaoyang Planning Art Museum,
one of more than 240 sites across Beijing where the first of two doses was
being given Friday to high-risk groups, including medical, delivery and
The vaccine, produced by a Beijing subsidiary of state-owned Sinopharm, is
the first approved for general use in China.
"Being vaccinated is not only to protect myself but also to protect people
around me," Ding Jianguang, a social worker who received her first shot earlier
this month, told foreign journalists on a government-organized visit to the
Former World Health Organization official Keiji Fukuda, who is not part of
the team in Wuhan, cautioned against expectations of any breakthroughs from the
visit, saying that it may take years before any firm conclusions can be made on
the virus's origin.
"China is going to want to come out avoiding blame, perhaps shifting the
narrative. They want to come across as being competent and transparent," he
told The Associated Press in a video interview from Hong Kong.
For its part, WHO wants to project the image that it is "taking, exerting
leadership, taking and doing things in a timely way," he said.
Scientists suspect the virus that has killed more than 1.9 million people
globally since late 2019 jumped to humans from bats or other animals, possibly
in southwest China.
China approved the World Health Organization visit only after months of
diplomatic wrangling that prompted an unusual public complaint by the head of
The delay, along with the ruling Communist Party's tight control of
information and promotion of theories the pandemic began elsewhere, added to
speculation that China is seeking to prevent discoveries that chisel away at
its self-proclaimed status as a leader in the battle against the virus.
In Wuhan, street life appeared little different from other Chinese cities
where the virus has been largely brought under control. Senior citizens
gathered to drink and dance in a riverside park Friday, and residents had
praise overall for the government's response to the crisis.
In other countries, "people go out arbitrarily, and they hang out and gather
together, so it's especially easy for them to be infected," Xiang Nan said. "I
hope they can stay home, and reduce traveling. ... Don't let the pandemic
spread further anymore."