China’s top leadership has admitted “shortcomings and difficulties” in its response to the coronavirus outbreak, as state media said a new hospital built at breakneck pace began receiving patients in the epicentre of the crisis.
The government in Beijing nevertheless hit out at the United States for sparking “panic” with its response to the coronavirus, including a ban on foreigners who have recently been to China.
The virus has so far spread to more than 20 countries, and several other nations have instituted tough travel rules.
As it races to try to contain the spread of the virus, China’s elite Politburo Standing Committee called for improvements to the “national emergency management system” following “shortcoming and difficulties exposed in the response to the epidemic,” according to the official Xinhua news agency.
“It is necessary to strengthen market supervision, resolutely ban and severely crack down on illegal wildlife markets and trade,” the Politburo said in a meeting on Monday, Xinhua reported.
Most of the deaths have been in Wuhan and the rest of surrounding Hubei province, most of which has been under lockdown for almost two weeks.
With more than 20,400 confirmed infections, the mortality rate for the new coronavirus is much lower than the 9.6 percent rate for SARS.
In Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have jumped from animals at a market into humans, authorities have been racing to build two new hospitals to treat the infected.
The first of those -- a 1,000-bed facility -- “began to receive” patients Monday, the People’s Daily reported, just 10 days after construction began. Around 50 patients were admitted, reports said.
A second hospital is due to open later this week.
China is also converting an exhibition centre, along with a nearby gymnasium, into hospitals which will house an extra 3,400 beds and provide “emergency treatment and clinical testing” for those infected with the virus in Wuhan.