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Beijing's SARS hospital opens to tackle imported COVID-19 risks

Global Times

By Wan Lin Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/17 0:03:40

Beijing announced the launch of Xiaotangshan Hospital on Monday. The facility, once designated to treat SARS patients in 2003, will be used to screen international visitors and returned nationals, to treat mild coronavirus cases and quarantine suspected cases.

Situated in Changping, on the northern outskirts of Beijing, Xiaotangshan (Xiaotang Hill), the world's largest medical complex devoted solely to SARS patients at the time, reopened on Monday after finishing testing of its laboratory inspection, disinfection and protection and other facilities in the expanded area. The hospital started its renovation at the end of January.

To tackle the pressure of a growing number of imported coronavirus cases swarming into the capital city, the hospital, with more than 1,000 beds, will serve as a designated place to further screen overseas visitors and returned nationals who have shown abnormalities during the inspection at Beijing capital airport. It will also be used to quarantine suspected cases and treat infected patients with mild symptoms, Beijing Daily reported on Monday.

Passengers who show fever, cough and other symptoms in the airport inspection will be directly sent from Beijing airport to Xiaotangshan hospital, which forms a closed loop without posing any risk for the public in Beijing.

Starting from Monday, all overseas arrivals to Beijing will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine at designated places. The policy came out to respond to the increasing risks of epidemic expansion brought by imported infection as the number of imported cases reported in Beijing climbed to 37 as of press time, with six new patients confirmed on Monday who had traveled from the UK and Spain.

Passengers who show no symptoms in the airport inspection will first go to the Beijing New International Exhibition hall, a designated connecting place for new overseas arrivals to register their information and do further tests.

After being confirmed to have no suspected infection, those whose destination is Beijing will be directly sent to local concentration places for quarantine; those whose destinations are outside Beijing will be received and sent directly back to their designated cities via plane or train under the full escort of specially tasked local government staff who are now based in Beijing, and they will later be put under isolation at local hotels in their own cities.

"The inspection and escort work is clearly increasing after Beijing's policy came out that all international arrivals have to be quarantined," a staff member who was dispatched by the government of a city in Northeast China's Liaoning Province to conduct escort work for overseas arrivals, told the Global Times on Monday.

"The opening of Xiaotangshan hospital today will for sure ease the city's pressure of receiving and dealing with overseas passengers and quicken the process of the whole screening and treatment work," he said. "The Beijing New International Exhibition hall is seeing a bigger flow of people there for the registration, testing work and their escort plans. More people means higher risks."

Some netizens say that the hospital's opening is a sign from Beijing to show the world its determination to deal with imported coronavirus risks.

"The country has almost eased the epidemic after a hard battle. As an international destination, Beijing is taking the responsibility to curb the possible epidemic expansion in the city, or even across the country. Xiaotangshan hospital will play a big role in the city's efforts," wrote a netizen on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform.

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