China built a 5,000-room quarantine center for arrivals from abroad. Could be the first of many

(CNN) – When it comes to keeping COVID-19 at bay, few countries seem willing to go as far as China.

As countries around the world reopen borders and ease coronavirus restrictions, Beijing is doubling down on its “zero” virus strategy. The latest example: a $ 260 million quarantine complex with 5,000 rooms for travelers arriving in the country, set to open in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou in the coming days.

Comprised of rows of three-story buildings with traditional Chinese-style gray roofs, the massive complex occupies an area the size of 46 football fields and has been built from scratch in less than three months on the outskirts of the city.

It will replace designated hotels throughout Guangzhou to quarantine Chinese and international travelers arriving from abroad, a measure aimed at reducing residents’ exposure to imported cases.

Videochat, artificial intelligence and robots

Travelers will be transferred by buses directly from the airport and confined to their rooms for at least two weeks. Each room is equipped with a video chat camera and an artificial intelligence-assisted thermometer, with three meals a day delivered by robots, all designed to minimize direct contact with staff.

The Guangzhou International Sanitary Station, a complex built to house international travelers, in south China’s Guangdong Province on Sept. 17.

“It is arguably the world’s most advanced quarantine facility, highly technological and sophisticated,” said Yanzhong Huang, senior global health researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Guangzhou International Sanitary Station – as it is officially called – is the first of its kind in China. But experts say there could be many more as the Chinese government intensifies its inflexible “zero tolerance” strategy towards the coronavirus.

Dongguan production center, one hour drive from Guangzhou, already build its own “international health station” with 2,000 rooms. Further south, the Shenzhen Technology Center is also planning such a facility.

Closed borders

“This is not just a stopgap measure. (Chinese leaders) have the idea that this pandemic is going to take some time to end, and China is going to continue this strict control of its borders,” Huang said. “Facilities like this serve to institutionalize the zero tolerance strategy.”

For more than 18 months, China has closed its borders to most foreigners. The few who are allowed in, as well as returning Chinese nationals, are required to spend at least two weeks of mandatory quarantine in a hotel, followed by at least another week of centralized quarantine or home isolation, even those who are fully vaccinated.

However, the virus has repeatedly overcome China’s defenses. In May, the highly infectious delta variant caused an outbreak in southern Guangdong province, which includes Guangzhou and Shenzhen. At that time, Guangdong received the 90% of all foreign travelers entering China, with about 30,000 people quarantined at its 300 centralized facilities daily, according to a provincial health official.

Comprised of rows of three-story buildings, Guangzhou’s Quarantine Center for Foreigners has 5,000 rooms.

By the end of June, Guangdong had contained the outbreak, but authorities decided that existing measures were not enough to end the virus. Zhong Nanshan, one of the government’s top public health advisers, stated to the state media that Guangzhou would build a centralized quarantine facility for all overseas arrivals in order to enforce stricter standards.

The project got underway quickly, with more than 4,000 workers assigned to the site. The facility was completed earlier this month and a first batch of 184 doctors moved in last week to prepare for its official start-up.

Hard work awaits you. The complex is designed as a bubble that isolates itself from the rest of the city, which means that not only commuters, but also workers, will be subject to an effective blockade. The medical staff will work for 28 days at the facility, spend a week in quarantine and another two weeks in quarantine at home before being able to go abroad, according to declared an official to the Guangzhou Daily newspaper.

Hard measures, as the world begins to open up

China’s tightening of quarantine measures for those arriving from abroad comes as the list of countries that open up increases. Last week, United States ad that as of November it would ease travel restrictions for all fully vaccinated foreign visitors.

But calls are growing on Chinese social media for the authorities to extend the quarantine for those arriving from abroad. Many blame Chinese travelers returning from abroad for bringing the virus to China, especially after the latest outbreak in southern Fujian province.

China promotes a conspiracy theory about covid-19 4:04

Initially, experts advising the government identified a man who returned from Singapore more than a month ago as the probable origin of the outbreak, despite having served 21 days of quarantine upon arrival, during which he tested negative for the virus. virus a total of nine times. The average incubation period for the delta variant is about four days.

Later, health experts retracted that theory, saying the man was likely to have contracted the virus during the centralized quarantine. But the clarification did not serve to quell calls to toughen quarantine requirements.

China’s decision to impose a stricter quarantine comes despite the fact that the country has made great progress in its vaccination campaign. Earlier this month, authorities announced that 1 billion people had been fully inoculated with domestically made vaccines, representing 71% of China’s 1.4 billion people. a higher rate than many countries that have opened their borders.

In time for the Import and Export Fair

Guangzhou’s new quarantine facility will open just in time for the China Import and Export Fair, which starts on October 15. The biennial event, also known as the Canton Fair, is China’s largest trade exhibition, attracting tens of thousands of companies from around the world.

How did China stop the advance of covid-19? 0:49

After being held online during the pandemic, next month marks the return of the fair to the real world, but attendance will be limited to exporters and buyers already established in China.

However, the Guangzhou authorities have tightened quarantine requirements for all arriving foreigners, increasing the mandatory quarantine from 14 to 21 days.

Huang, an expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, says that despite its enormous size, the facility is likely not large enough to accommodate all arrivals from abroad. “Think about it. An international flight usually carries 300 people. All of them must be quarantined and stay at least 21 days. It will fill up quickly,” he said.

The death of cats infected with covid-19

When Liu, a 28-year-old from the Chinese city of Harbin, tested positive for COVID-19 last week, she left enough food and water for her three cats at home before going into hospital quarantine, she said. to the state media Beijing News. She was confident that community workers would stop by her apartment to take care of her pets while she was away.

Instead, when the cats also tested positive for the virus, the workers euthanized all three without their consent, according to Beijing News, which only identified Liu by his last name.

This Chinese vaccine is not effective against the variants 0:48

They told Liu on Monday that samples from their cats had tested positive for the virus, and that euthanizing them was the only option because there is no available treatment for the animal infection. Liu objected and refused to sign a consent form for euthanasia, according to Beijing News. The next day, all three cats were euthanized anyway.

Without treatment, cats would still carry the virus, and the home would be an infected space even after Liu returned from quarantine, risking another outbreak, an unidentified community worker told Beijing News.

CNN contacted officials in the Nangang district, where Liu lives, who said they had no knowledge of the matter.

Covid-19 in animals

Animals in different countries have contracted covid-19, including domestic pets, zoo animals and farm species, with humans being the main source of these infections.

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But while scientists claim that Covid-19 likely originated in animals before spreading among humans, there is no evidence that animals are playing an important role in spreading the virus to people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Liu’s story went viral on the strictly censored Chinese social media platform Weibo, with a related hashtag garnering more than 14 million views. Users were divided, with pet owners and supporters outraged, while others viewed euthanasia as a sensible option during the pandemic.

“The pandemic situation is very serious abroad, but have you ever heard of a single pet being euthanized?” Commented one Weibo user. “For families with pets, pets are family. Why [estamos haciendo esto]? “

“I don’t understand why people criticize the country [las autoridades]”wrote another user.” In fact, the treatment of COVID-19 patients was provided by the State with a lot of money and effort, and medical personnel are also at risk of infection. I don’t understand why everyone asks the country to spend so much labor, materials and financial resources on treating pets. “

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