Wuhan's 1000-bed hospital to open today as death toll rises
Some 1,400 military medics will treat patients at the 1,000-bed hospital
BEIJING: China's army yesterday was given control of a nearly-finished field hospital that will treat patients at the epicentre of a deadly virus epidemic that has severely strained medical facilities.
Some 1,400 military medics will treat patients at the 1,000-bed Wuhan hospital, dubbed Fire God Mountain, which will receive its first patients today - just 10 days after construction began, according to state media.
The official Xinhua news agency said many of the staff were involved in the fight against another coronavirus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), which killed some 650 people in mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
It is one of two makeshift medical facilities that the authorities decided to build in order to relieve hospitals swamped with patients in Wuhan, the central city at the epicentre of the national health emergency.
People in the city of 11 million, which has been under quarantine for more than a week, have complained of waiting hours in line to see a doctor.
The new coronavirus, which is believed to have originated at a wild animal market in Wuhan, has killed more than 304 people and infected more than 14,000.
The second field hospital, Thunder God Mountain, is set to start admitting patients on Thursday, with 1,600 beds - 300 more than originally planned.
The World Health Organisation has declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, but said global trade and travel restrictions are not needed. However, a string of countries have ramped up border controls.
Singapore and the US announced measures on Friday to ban foreign nationals who have recently been to China from entering their territories, and Australia followed suit on Saturday. Russia introduced visa restrictions and will start evacuating Russian citizens today and tomorrow, Interfax and TASS news agencies reported.
The Philippines expanded its travel ban to include all foreigners coming from China, widening an earlier restriction that covered only those from Hubei province. Indonesia also barred visitors who have been in China for 14 days.
Japan has barred foreigners who have been in Hubei from entering the country. South Korea will impose a similar entry ban from tomorrow, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said.
In a related development, the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou restricted the movement of residents and closed roads yesterday in the most drastic steps taken by authorities outside the epicentre of the virus.
Only one resident per household is allowed to go out every two days to buy necessities, authorities said in the city of nine million, while 46 highway toll stations have been closed. - AFP, REUTERS