Coronavirus suspects in Wuhan ordered to go to quarantine zones

Liu Zhen

Anyone in Wuhan who is suspected of being infected with the new coronavirus or has been in close contact with a confirmed case must relocate to a dedicated quarantine centre, local authorities said on Sunday, as the contagion shows no sign of slowing down in the city where it was first detected.

People who had been professionally diagnosed as having a fever and pneumonia symptoms would be transported by specialist vehicle to one of the isolation sites, the city’s emergency headquarters said in a statement.

“Patients shall cooperate,” it said. “Whoever refuses to cooperate will be subject to enforcement by the police.”

Hospital to open in Wuhan with 1,400 military medical staff

While the government did not say how many quarantine sites there were, where they were located or how many people would be affected, it said the new rule would take immediate effect.

While in the centres, patients would not be charged for their medical treatment, food or accommodation, but would be required to remain for as long as was deemed necessary by the medical staff looking after them, the statement said.

Anyone else feeling unwell but not confirmed as being infected by the coronavirus should isolate themselves at home, it said.

The number of confirmed cases in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, rose by 894 on Saturday to 4,109, while the death toll increased by 32 to 224.

Saturday’s increase in the number of confirmed cases extended an upwards trend. On Friday there were 576 new cases reported, Thursday 378, Wednesday 356 and Tuesday 315.

Despite that steep curve, the official number of confirmed infections may only be a fraction of the actual figure, according to some estimates.

A study by scientists from the University of Hong Kong published in The Lancet on Saturday said that as of Tuesday, as many as 75,815 people in Wuhan may have been infected with the new coronavirus.

The research was based on the assumption that each infected person could have passed the virus on to 2.68 others.

The death toll in Wuhan rose by 32 on Saturday to 224. Photo: Xinhua

Whatever the true figure, the new quarantine measures in Wuhan suggest authorities in the city, which has been on almost total lockdown since January 23, have no plans to ease up in their efforts to contain the deadly contagion.

But the spiralling number of infections is putting a huge strain on hospitals and medical staff in the city as demand for treatment exceeds capacity.

Wang Xiaodong, the governor of Hubei, was quoted by Hubei Daily on Sunday as saying that medical institutions in the province must finish the testing of existing samples within two days.

His comments came after the city’s authorities were initially accused of badly mishandling the outbreak.

Also on Sunday, Hubei authorities ordered all cities in the province to ensure their quarantine hospitals, areas or wards were ready to accept incoming patients. In several areas, hotels, hostels and idle factories have been requisitioned and repurposed to meet the growing need for beds.

A total of 1,921 new confirmed cases and 45 deaths were reported across the whole of Hubei on Saturday.

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