Severe hospital bed shortage at China virus epicentre


Authorities in China warned on Wednesday (Feb 5) they faced a severe shortage of hospital beds and equipment needed to treat a growing number of patients stricken by the new coronavirus, as cities far from the epicentre tightened their defences.

Central Hubei province reported 3,156 new infections, its biggest single-day jump in the outbreak that has spiralled into a global health emergency with cases reported in over 20 countries.

Among those new cases was a newborn, who was diagnosed just 30 hours after being born.

Despite authorities building a hospital from scratch and converting public buildings to accommodate thousands of extra patients, there was still a "severe" lack of beds, said Hu Lishan, an official in Wuhan, the quarantined city where the virus first appeared - and where doctors are now overwhelmed with cases.

There was also a shortage of "equipment and materials," he told reporters, adding that officials were looking to convert other hotels and schools in the city into treatment centres.

As the number of confirmed infections nationwide 28,138, a growing number of cities have imposed a range of restrictions far from Hubei, as authorities battle to contain the virus that has killed 564 people.

Millions of people, from the eastern industrial heartlands to near the northern border with Russia, have been ordered to stay indoors as authorities battle to curb the outbreak.

Global concerns have risen after the World Health Organisation declared an international health emergency last week.

The WHO called for US$675 million in donations for a plan to fight the novel coronavirus, mainly through investment in countries considered particularly "at risk".

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to commit up to US$100 million.

New cases emerged abroad, with 10 people testing positive for the virus on a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan with thousands on board.

Italy announced that passengers from every international flight would be scanned for fevers, while Vietnam, which has detected 10 cases, joined a growing list of countries banning arrivals from China.

And Hong Kong, which reported its first coronavirus death this week, said anyone arriving from the mainland will face a mandatory two-week quarantine from Saturday.

Source: AFP

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