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Officials urged to plan ahead for Omicron

By WANG XIAOYU | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-05-24 09:09
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Medics from Huashan Hospital of Fudan University work at the Lingang makeshift hospital for COVID-19 patients in Shanghai on April 6, 2022. [Photo/Handout via Xinhua]

Health commission calls for building of facilities to reduce burden on hospitals

The building of more makeshift hospitals across China is aimed at enabling mild and asymptomatic COVID-19 cases to be admitted promptly, so as to cut off the virus' transmission and prevent overburdening regular hospitals, a health official said on Monday.

The National Health Commission said recently that local governments should plan ahead to set up more designated hospitals, makeshift hospitals and centralized quarantine facilities.

Guo Yanhong, an official at the commission's Bureau of Medical Administration, said during a news briefing that makeshift hospitals refer to facilities that are equipped with essential infrastructure such as water and electricity, toilets, shower rooms, ventilation systems as well as medical and protective equipment.

Such sites can begin receiving patients within 24 hours after a new outbreak is detected, she said.

Guo said that setting up more makeshift hospitals is not a sign of worsening epidemic conditions.

"Rather, it is to adapt to the traits of Omicron, such as that it is highly contagious, spreads very quickly and the majority of infections are mild or asymptomatic," she said.

Because new infections will likely spike swiftly during an Omicron outbreak, Guo said, makeshift hospitals are vital to accommodating cases and relieving the strain on regular healthcare services.

In addition, Guo said makeshift hospitals can also play a significant role in tackling other contagious diseases or other large-scale health emergencies.

Guo stressed that China's virus control efforts should be rooted in preventing new cases via a set of measures such as mass testing and tracking and isolating close contacts. "Focusing on prevention is the most cost-effective approach," she said. "Only in this way can we reduce the incidence of COVID-19 disease, narrow the scale of affected areas and safeguard the health of the people."

As a number of major cities have begun establishing testing stands within a 15-minute walk, Guo said such arrangements mainly involve provincial capitals and cities with over 10 million people. "The frequency of testing should be based on local circumstances," she added.

In terms of international travel, Liu Haitao, head of the National Immigration Administration's Department of Frontier Inspection and Management, said that citizens are advised to not leave the country unless for essential or urgent reasons.

However, he added that local immigration authorities have been required to facilitate the demands of enterprises that need to resume operation, as well as those with plans to travel abroad to aid in the fight against the pandemic or deliver anti-virus materials.

Kong Fanwei, deputy director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China's flight standards department, said that since China introduced a policy in June 2020 of suspending international flights when more than five passengers test positive, 727 suspension orders have been announced, bringing total flight cancellations to 1,679.

To prevent the virus' spread via cold-chain products, Li Zhengliang, deputy director of the General Administration of Customs' department of health quarantine, said it has halted imports from 170 foreign enterprises experiencing infection clusters among their employees.

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