Most shops and restaurants are still closed. “Closed for holidays,” can be read on windows and doors in a village north of Beijing. Those who no longer have a vacation are the hundreds of construction workers. “We have been called back to work,” says one of them.
What they have to do exactly, they don’t know yet. “We have just arrived”, another construction worker says, removing his helmet from the trunk.
The farming village of Xiaotangshan is famous in Beijing for its hot springs. It gained worldwide fame for a different reason. In 2003, when the SARS outbreak paralyzed large parts of the country, an emergency hospital was set up in seven days.
The SARS outbreak started in the southern province of Guangdong at the time, but it spread rapidly. Many cases were found in the capital in particular. The hospital in Xiaotangshan finally treated one-seventh of the total number of reported cases, a local newspaper writes.
Around the construction site in Xiaotangshan, the area around the old SARS hospital is now leveled, trucks are coming and going. “We are happy that we can make a contribution to our country,” says a team leader, while construction workers carry bricks back and forth. It is still unclear what role the emergency hospital will play now.
While the province of Hubei has huge capacity problems due to the many thousands of confirmed infections, the outbreak in the capital Beijing seems to be manageable. On Sunday, around noon, the local health authority counted “only” 191 infections.
Local residents are not worried
Several red propaganda banners have arisen at the hospital. “Believe in prevention and control, we work together on the same boat”, and:
“Implement the policy, for a resolute victory in the fight against the epidemic”. There are also slogans about the “” iron army “that the” mission to build the SARS hospital in seven days and nights must be undertaken “.
Local residents, often decked out with mouth masks recommended by state media, show little concern about the reopening of the hospital in their village. “Everyone has a lot of admiration for it and cooperates,” says one of them, who introduces himself as Liu. “Good security measures are being taken,” he says. “I’m not worried as long as the virus doesn’t escape.”
The first emergency hospital in Wuhan, called Huoshenshan, has now been delivered and will be put into operation tomorrow. Whether and when the old SARS hospital near Beijing will open its doors is still unknown.