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Coronavirus

'Save us,' Wuhan mother pleads, as second hospital is quickly opened

Rapid construction not enough to keep pace with spike in coronavirus cases

Despite adding more than 2,500 new beds in the last couple of weeks, Wuhan area hospitals are struggling to keep up with the influx of patients.     © Reuters

DALIAN, China -- A new 1,600-bed hospital opened Wednesday in Wuhan after just 10 days of construction, but the Chinese city of 11 million people at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak is still struggling to keep up with a rapid surge in patients.

The Leishenshan Hospital and the Huoshenshan Hospital, completed Sunday with 1,000 beds, were modeled after a hospital built in Beijing in a week in 2003 in the midst of the SARS outbreak. While severe acute respiratory syndrome had infected more than 8,000 people, this new coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, has sickened more than 24,000 people -- mostly in mainland China.

The two new facilities bring the number of hospital beds in Wuhan to about 10,000. China has also sent over 10,000 medical professionals from around the country to the city. But the situation on the ground remains dire.

One woman told Nikkei in an email Wednesday that her aunt and uncle had died from the new coronavirus. Her father developed a 39 C fever after visiting them and was diagnosed with the coronavirus on Monday, but was told to stay home because there was no room at the hospital.

"He's not going to survive at this rate," she said. "I want them to prepare a bed for him as soon as possible."

Another woman said her mother, husband and two children have coughs and fevers, but have yet to be tested for the coronavirus because of a lack of supplies. "Who is going to save their lives?" she said.

The number of patients in Wuhan grew 1,967 in a day to 8,351 as of 12 a.m. Wednesday, according to Chinese health authorities.

Twenty-eight hospitals with a combined official capacity of 8,199 beds were treating coronavirus patients in Wuhan as of Monday, city authorities said. Some have placed cots in hallways and lobbies, bringing the actual total to 8,279 beds.

Of the more than 490 deaths recorded in mainland China as of Wednesday, 362 were from Wuhan. The city also has a 4.3% infection rate, compared with the 2.0% average across the mainland.

Officials said on Tuesday that the higher infection was because patients in Wuhan were spread out across many hospitals, making it difficult to effectively manage the outbreak. Supplies, like oxygen inhalators used for serious patients, are also running short.

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