Authorities in Tibet are building massive Covid isolation and care facilities in anticipation of further outbreaks in China, even though the remote territory has reported only one case during the epidemic.
The Chinese construction group Jiangsu Qi an Construction Group has built temporary hospitals in Lhasa and Shigatse with 1,000 beds each, a key feature of China's Covid response. The firm said it had been tasked with building hospitals in late March and given less than half a month to complete them. More than 400 people are working in three shifts to get the job done.
The development in Tibet, which has been governed as an autonomous region of China since it was annexed in the 1950s, came as Shanghai declared some districts to be Covid-free at the social level, meaning all cases were found inside quarantined facilities, raising hopes that the city had turned a corner and could emerge from a lock-in. On Thursday afternoon, authorities said that tough restrictions would remain in place across the city, including those districts that had contained the spread.
China's national health commission has ordered that all provinces in China should have two to three makeshift hospitals to house and treat people with mild or asymptomatic cases of Covid 19 and reduce pressure on the hospital system.
Even if there isn't a construction plan, we need to come up with a plan to make sure that the makeshift hospital can be built and put into use within two days, officials said on 22 March. There were 33 hospitals built or under construction in 12 provinces at the time.
Some jurisdictions hospitals have been overwhelmed by the number of cases of Omicron, the more transmissible variant of the disease. The effect of the outbreak in Hong Kong was compounded by an earlier policy under which all positive cases were sent to hospital regardless of severity. Both China and Taiwan, both of which had that policy, have since removed it and are at home in hotels or in Taiwan with mild or asymptomatic cases.
The worst outbreak in China since Wuhan is currently concentrated in Shanghai. On Thursday, the city reported 2,634 local cases and 15,861 asymptomatic cases. There were almost 1,000 total cases spread across other regions, mostly in Jilin and Jiangsu.
On Thursday, Shanghai authorities reported another eight deaths, bringing the official total from the outbreak to just 25, despite widespread reports from residents of people dying after getting Covid-19. China's health authorities seem to have held a high threshold for attributing death to Covid 19 when there are health conditions that are underlying, a position that has been questioned by international experts. On Thursday Associated Press reported shifting definitions of an asymptomatic case, confusing how not only deaths are counted but Covid cases too.
China is committed to zero Covid, but it has begun focusing on a goal of eliminating cases outside quarantined areas and facilities, even if the count inside quarantine remains high.
On Wednesday, authorities in Shanghai declared two districts to have no cases outside quarantined facilities, a goal that was expected to lead to the reduction of some lockdown restrictions. Residents have complained about food shortages, delivery delays and increased prices for daily essentials and have been criticised by Shanghai's lockdown.
More than 16 million people are still in lockdown. On Wednesday a city health official, Wu Qianyu said 7.85 million would now be able to walk outside or return to work in factories, a rise of 2 million from last week s exceptions.
The community spread has been curbed, said Wu of the districts. On Thursday, authorities said that tough measures would be in place.