China Turns Construction of Coronavirus Hospitals into Reality TV Program

Millions of Chinese people tuned in on Tuesday to a live stream of workers constructing two new hospitals built specifically to combat the deadly coronavirus outbreak in the city of Wuhan.

Work on the two hospitals, Huoshenshan and Leishenshan, is scheduled to be completed next week to help ease pressure on health workers by providing 2,300 extra beds for patients suffering from the virus. Construction began last week.

The broadcaster of the videos, China Central Television (CCTV), claimed on Tuesday that the video streams attracted an average of 18 million concurrent views. Such figures are comparable to last October’s National Day military parade, which attracted an average of 27.3 concurrent viewers throughout its coverage.

State propaganda outlet People’s Daily appeared to celebrate the level of interest, noting that cameras give viewers a “bird’s-eye view of the construction site, with workers, trucks, and excavators racing to make the deadline.”

It noted:

Stuck at home due to the disease, many people have been following the news related to the virus through the internet. The construction of the two hospitals also has attracted tens of millions of “volunteer supervisors”, as netizens call themselves. Viewers are exchanging their stories and feelings in the difficult time, in addition to talking about the construction projects.

The construction of the hospitals is one of a variety of measures taken by Chinese health authorities to reduce the spread of the virus. Other steps include imposing a lockdown on several cities in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital. Authorities are also asking people to wear face masks across the country. Many Western countries, including the United States and Great Britain, have warned their citizens against all but essential travel to the Chinese mainland.

Over 100 people have died and a further 6,000 have contracted the virus across China since the outbreak began last month, with that number rising. Sporadic cases of the virus have also been reported in 18 other countries, including Australia, France, and Canada.

There are concerns that the Chinese Communist Party may be playing down the numbers of those infected in order to reduce international concern. On Tuesday, Chinese dictator Xi Jinping described the outbreak as a “demon” that China would manage in an “open, transparent, and responsible” way.

“The epidemic is a demon and we cannot let this demon hide,” state media quoted him as saying. “The Chinese government has always adopted an open, transparent and responsible attitude to timely release of information on the epidemic, domestically and to other countries.”

Those who contract the virus normally experience flu-like symptoms: fever, headaches, fatigue, and coughing, among others. There is currently no immediate cure.

“There are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses,” notes the American Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “Most people with common human coronavirus illness will recover on their own.”

Follow Ben Kew on Facebook, Twitter at @ben_kew, or email him at [email protected]

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