Chinese construction workers are labouring around the clock to build a new hospital to treat victims of the new coronavirus outbreak.
And they could have it finished within a week.
It’s in response to a growing health emergency, with the death toll rising, footage showing bodies lying in hospital corridors, and millions of people in lockdown. President Xi Jinping has warned his nation is facing a “grave situation”.
But how can the Chinese achieve this feat of engineering?
How big is it?
On Friday the city of Wuhan said it was building a hospital space for 1,300 beds, and shortly after that state media footage emerged of the project getting underway.
Chinese construction workers get to work en masse at Wuhan’s new hospital project. (Reuters: China News Service)
Dozens of mechanical diggers could be seen getting the land on the site ready.
China’s Xinhua news agency said the new facility aimed to “alleviate the shortage of medical treatment resources and improve the ability to care for patients”.
SARS hospital the model
The hospital now being constructed will be modelled after the Xiaotangshan SARS hospital in Beijing, Wuhan authorities said in an earlier notice.
The specialised hospital was built from scratch in a week in 2003 during the deadly SARS outbreak. The hospital featured individual isolation units that looked like rows of tiny cabins.
The new hospital is expected to be similar to this SARS hospital, which was built in 2003. (Reuters: Andrew Wong)
The new coronavirus hospital will probably be put together from prefabricated structures which will have been assembled before arriving on the site.
Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the BBC he believed China would be able to get the hospital built within six days.
“China has a record of getting things done fast, even for monumental projects like this,” he said.
“The engineering work is what China is good at. They have records of building skyscrapers at speed. This is very hard for Westerners to imagine. It can be done.”
In 2015 Chinese workers erected a 57-storey tower in just 19 days, and in 2018 a time-lapse video released by the Xinhua news agency purported to show 1,500 workers laying the track for a new railway station in southeast China in just nine hours.
Sense of ‘obligation’ driving pressured workers
Right now construction workers are working around the clock at the site in Wuhan’s western suburbs.
At least one Wuhan-based worker says he feels a sense of obligation to get the job done ahead of time. (AP: Chinatopix)
One of them, engineer Wu Zhizhen, told the AP news agency he was only taking five hours’ break a day.
“As a Wuhan resident and a construction staff, I have an obligation to contribute all I can,” he said.
“We have to get things done ahead of schedule.”
The area has to be flattened out considerably before the structures go up. (Reuters: CNSphoto)
“We have no technical issues, but we don’t have enough time to purchase materials and equipment,” said Zhou Pan, a deputy manager of Wuhan Construction.
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