After that, patients have been sent to makeshift medical facilities that don’t provide the support they need to recover. With little to no dedicated medical staff on hand to help, some patients die.
A sudden spike in new cases could make the situation worse. Officials in Hubei province announced on Thursday that they had expanded the criteria for counting new infections to include diagnoses by doctors based on a chest scan and symptoms, rather than a more complicated test.
The tally from the outbreak surged as a result, with the province adding nearly 15,000 cases and 242 deaths in a single day.
The surge continued Friday when Hubei officials disclosed about 4800 new cases and 112 additional deaths.
Global reverberations have shown no sign of slowing.
On Thursday, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States said a person under quarantine at a military base in San Antonio had tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the US to 15.
In Japan, health officials announced the first death from the virus in the country, a woman in her 80s in Kanagawa prefecture, which includes Yokohama, where more than 200 passengers on a quarantined cruise ship have been infected by the coronavirus.
One Wuhan resident, Peng Andong, 59, had been suffering from a persistent fever and lung infection for days when his local neighbourhood committee told him to go to a makeshift quarantine site last week.
Peng and his family were told that there would be doctors at the quarantine site, as well as test kits so he could get the official confirmation needed to receive proper treatment. So on February 5, Peng boarded a bus full of sick patients — none wearing protective gear — and was driven to a hotel converted into an isolation centre.
For several days, Peng messaged with his relatives regularly, updating them on the tumultuous conditions inside the hotel.
“He said it was really chaotic in the first few days and there was no food or medical staff there,” said Peng Bangze, his son. Others have described similar conditions in interviews and in calls for help posted on social media.
The Chinese government’s drive to corral people into makeshift medical facilities in Wuhan began earlier this month as it became clear that patients were infecting family members after being told to quarantine at home. Desperate officials hastily devised plans to convert stadiums, exhibition centres, hotels and schools into temporary medical centres for thousands who could not get admitted to a hospital.
Confirmed coronavirus patients with mild symptoms were put in large converted spaces.
Suspected cases went to requisitioned hotels and schools to be isolated. The close contacts of confirmed cases and patients with fevers who could have been infected were also put in separate facilities. Some confirmed cases with serious symptoms have been transferred to two newly built hospitals dedicated to treating coronavirus patients.
Despite some complaints about the scarcity of toilets and concerns among experts about the potential for cross-infections, some patients in such venues say they are mostly satisfied with the conditions and are relieved to be out of their homes where they were worried about infecting relatives.
Images circulated from inside the centres show patients dancing and lying in beds playing on their phones. One patient was even photographed reading Francis Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order.
But in many cases, the effort appears disjointed and disorganised. A report by the official Xinhua News Agency said that because of the “limitations” of some quarantine sites, sometimes two or three patients with suspected cases were housed in the same room.
Another Xinhua report detailed how community workers doing door-to-door checks had to talk to neighbours and check on clues like hanging laundry to ensure that every household in Wuhan was counted.
Even the Global Times, a nationalistic party newspaper, reported on the frustrations of a public bus driver who tried in the middle of the night to round up people suspected to have infections.
The New York Times