A brand new, 5000-room quarantine facility set to open in days has revealed China’s obsession with reaching Covid-zero.
The Guangzhou International Health Station, located in southern China, has been constructed over the course of just three months, at a cost of US$260 million ($377 million).
The purpose of the massive facility is to house incoming travellers – whether they be returning Chinese citizens or visitors from overseas – while they quarantine in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.
The 250,000sq m station is designed to replace quarantine hotels in densely populated areas, and will be China’s first international health station.
However, experts believe Beijing is planning to construct many more in future as authorities take aggressive action to eliminate the virus.
The imposing centre boasts endless rows of three-storey high buildings, and almost 200 staff are already on the ground ahead of the first arrivals.
When the first travellers destined for the facility touch down, they will be transported from the airport by bus.
They must remain in their rooms for at least a fortnight.
Despite the squad of workers at the centre, every effort has been made to minimise contact between them and potentially infected guests, to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
Three meals per day will be delivered to guests’ rooms by robots, and their temperature will be checked by smart technology, not by humans.
Guests will also check in and out using technology only, and will have access to a video chat camera.
According to Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, the facility is a world leader.
“It’s arguably the most state-of-the-art quarantine centre in the world, if you will – very hi-tech, very sophisticated,” he told CNN.
“This is not just a stopgap measure. [Leaders] hold the view that this pandemic is going to take a while to end, and China is going to continue this strict control of its borders.
“Facilities like this serve as a way to institutionalise the zero-tolerance strategy.”
When the plan was first announced back in June, China’s leading epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan said in a statement it was necessary to protect the wider population and economy.
He said Guangzhou receives up to 90 per cent of China’s international visitors, which means it is the most dangerous city in the country when it comes to potential Covid-19 outbreaks.
“There will be 5000 isolated spaces and the people there will be isolated according to strict rules to make sure they do not infect each other,” he said.
“In the long term, Guangzhou and Shenzhen must build these kinds of facilities.
“Otherwise when there are lots of cases in the future and we have to quarantine them in hotels, it will affect the economy and we cannot isolate them in a real sense.”
According to Reuters, China’s national Covid vaccination rate was just under 70 per cent in early September.
The nation has experienced spikes in cases in recent weeks, with new infections more than doubling in China’s southeastern province of Fujian in mid-September.
Months before that, in May, the Delta variant wreaked havoc in the southern province of Guangdong, of which Guangzhou is the capital.
While that alarming outbreak was contained by June, it set off alarm bells among authorities, who decided tougher measures would need to be taken to prevent future flare ups.
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