The hospital was built by converting a decommissioned VW parts factory near Port Elizabeth
Twitter @AmbSchaefer
  • Volkswagen converted an old parts factory into a Covid-19 field hospital, and in under two months.
  • The facility measures a massive 66,000 square metres, and will eventually house 3,300 patients.
  • The hospital was funded by the German government and Volkswagen.
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Less than two months after announcing its plan of building a Covid-19 field hospital in South Africa, the German car manufacturer Volkswagen opened the facility in one of its old factories in Port Elizabeth. 

The company converted a decommissioned parts factory in the industrial area of Korsten into a temporary hospital in just seven weeks.

The giant facility measures 66,000 square metres. More than 1,400 beds are lined up in neat rows, underneath metal girders once used to manufacture car parts. The concrete floor is still marked by yellow lines where machines stood.

South Africa’s health minister, Zweli Mkhize, admitted "many people doubted that we could build field hospitals in a matter of weeks”.

“We have seen this in China,” he said, “but we have also seen how, in the process of our own collaboration, nothing can ever stop us from achieving whatever is necessary to save lives.”

The hospital currently has 1,485 beds, and will expand to 3,300 over the course of the year.
Twitter @AmbSchaefer

The facility can currently house 1,485 patients, including serious cases where people require help breathing. Over the course of the year it will be expanded to house 3,300 patients, including 800 who require oxygenation.

While a strict national lockdown - imposed before a single coronavirus-related death - has helped to flatten the curve in South Africa, hospital beds are now urgently needed. According to the government, the country as whole has capacity for 27,000 Covid-19 hospitalisations. 

There are now more than 100,000 cumulative cases of Covid-19 recorded in South Africa, with an average of about 4,000 cases being reported daily.

In the Eastern Cape alone, where the facility is located, there are now more than 12,000 infections. More than 2,000 people have died from Covid-19 in South Africa.

The facility can accommodate high-risk patients that require help breathing.
Twitter @AmbSchaefer

The German government provided nearly R100 million (€5.22 million) in funding, along with R25 million (€1.3 million) from Volkswagen South Africa to fund the conversion. The car manufacturer also sourced protective equipment for health workers.

According to Mkhize, Volkswagen has also offered to help manufacture ventilators. The equipment is urgently needed to help patients who have trouble breathing due to the effects of the virus.

"We are also very pleased to have had a conversation with VW on manufacturing non-invasive devices to deliver oxygen to patients who need assistance,” he said, without offering further information.

The massive facility measures 66,000 square metres. The lines were machines once stood are still on the floor.
Twitter @DrZweliMkhize

Martin Schäfer, Germany’s ambassador to South Africa, called the hospital a “beacon of hope” in difficult times.

The novel coronavirus “affects us all, across the globe,” he said in a statement. “The best way to address this common challenge is by working together and by acting in solidarity.”

Dr Gerd Müller, the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, said “we all must realise that we either beat Covid-19 worldwide or not at all.”

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