Huoshenshan Hospital construction nears completion on February 3, 2020 in Wuhan, China. After only 10 days of construction, Wuhan Huoshenshan Hospital was officially completed and delivered, and on February 3, patients with newly diagnosed coronavirus pneumonia were admitted.
Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • China seemed to score a major victory in its fight against the coronavirus by building two new hospitals in an extremely short time, promising 2,600 new beds.
  • Chinese state media lauded the lightning-speed construction of the makeshift hospitals, saying that it reflected the "nation's building prowess."
  • However, official data shows that the facilities have been slow to treat actual patients.
  • As of February 12 the two facilities were only housing 1,136 patients - less than 50% of their goal.
  • The virus has killed at least 1,360 people and infected than 60,000 worldwide, with the Wuhan area the worst-hit.
  • Visit Business Insider SA's homepage for more stories.

It was probably China's biggest propaganda coup of the coronavirus outbreak: announcing and building two complete new hospitals in a timeframe that was almost incomprehensible in the West.

Chinese state media live-streamed frantic construction efforts as first the Huoshenshan and then the Leishenshan hospitals sprung up out of nowhere, the first built in 10 days and the second in 12.

They were to provide sorely-needed new beds for victims of the outbreak: 1,000 at Huoshenshan and 1,600 at Leishenshan.

The official Xinhua news agency called the quick turnaround "Mission Impossible made possible." Cameras toured the fresh-built facilities and noted that patients were being moved in already.

However, official data shows that the actual usefulness of the hospitals has yet to match the pace or spectacle of their construction, with the facilities running at less than half their projected 2,600 capacity.

Here is a graph showing the number of occupied beds reported each day by local officials:

This chart shows the raw figures:

Date Leishenshan Beds Huoshenshan Beds Feb 2 0 0 Feb 3 0 50 Feb 4 0 45 Feb 5 0 76 Feb 6 0 86 Feb 7 0 86 Feb 8 30 286 Feb 9 85 382 Feb 10 88 803 Feb 11 90 924 Feb 12 123 1,013 CAPACITY1,6001,000

Overall, both hospitals only had 1,136 beds occupied out of a possible 2,600 beds available by February 12 - less than half of the patients they are eventually meant to treat.

It is not clear what is responsible for the mismatch between the hospitals' notional capacity and the reality.

According to The Guardian, elsewhere in the city there is a dire shortage of space, with exhibition centers and sports halls being converted into makeshift medical sites.

The virus has killed at least 1,360 people and infected more than 60,000 worldwide. The majority of the cases have been recorded in the Hubei province, where Wuhan is the largest city.

On Thursday, Hubei officials reported an enormous spike in cases, reporting 14,840 extra infections.

Earlier this month, officials said that major hospitals had to turn away patients because they were lacking beds and adequate medical resources.

"The medical resources in Wuhan, especially the ICU team, are not enough to deal with this severe treatment," Jiang Rongmeng, a member of the Chinese National Health Commission's team, said earlier this month, according to The Wall Street Journal.

State news agency Xinhua said on Wednesday that the number of designated hospitals in Wuhan treating coronavirus patients has risen to 40. The two new hospitals, it said, would be used to treat patients in severe or critical condition.

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