All the 15 temporary hospitals built to exclusively receive novel coronavirus patients in Wuhan, Hubei province, have been closed, with the daily number of reported new cases hitting a record low.
Wuchang Temporary Hospital, which was converted from a sports stadium, closed on Tuesday afternoon after its final 49 patients were discharged, making it the last of the temporary hospitals in Wuhan, the centre of the epidemic in China, to close its doors.
The hospital, which was converted within two days, received a total of 1,124 patients with mild symptoms of COVID-19 in the 35 days of its operation. No patients died in the hospital and none of its medical staff were infected, according to Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, its leading operator.
The city’s 15 temporary hospitals, which were converted from exhibition halls, sports stadiums and warehouses, received more than 12,000 patients, which means that one in four COVID-19 patients in Wuhan were treated in these hospitals, said Ma Xiaowei, minister of the National Health Commission.
The hospitals were built to help ease the severe shortage of beds in regular hospitals in Wuhan during the height of the epidemic in February. They started to close at the beginning of this month.
Only 17 new cases were reported in Wuhan on Monday, compared with 3,910 at the peak of the outbreak on Feb 13, according to the National Health Commission. In addition, only two new cases were reported in other areas of the Chinese mainland, both of which imported, the commission said.
Jiao Yahui, an official for medical administration and supervision at the commission, said at a ceremony marking the closure of Wuchang Temporary Hospital on Tuesday afternoon that closing all the temporary hospitals signified progress in epidemic control efforts.
“Here we are lighthearted as we mark the closure of the last temporary hospital. This is an entirely different mood from the one we had when the hospitals started to receive patients on Feb 5,” she said. “However, we cannot relax as there are still more than 13,000 patients receiving treatment in Wuhan. We will not cease the battle until the last patient is cured and discharged from the hospital.”
The COVID-19 epidemic has killed more than 3,100 people on the Chinese mainland－including more than 2,400 in Wuhan－since the outbreak was first reported in Wuhan in December, the commission said on Tuesday.
Building such temporary hospitals was a major measure to help prevent and control novel coronavirus pneumonia in Wuhan and combat the highly infectious disease. During the height of the epidemic in late January and early February, many residents with mild symptoms were quarantined at home instead of in hospitals due to reasons such as a shortage of beds or fear of cross-infection.
Wang Chen, president of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, who advocated building temporary hospitals in Wuhan, said some foreign countries that are now experiencing a rapid rise in cases may learn from the experience of treating patients with mild symptoms in such temporary hospitals.
In addition, authorities in China and other countries can consider formulating design standards for buildings such as major exhibition centres, stadiums and warehouses so they can be converted into temporary hospitals within 24 hours in cases of emergency, Wang said.