Coronavirus: Wuhan speeds up testing and treatment of patients

Staff members and and volunteers wearing protective face masks offloading medical supplies at a warehouse in Wuhan, China, on Feb 4, 2020.
Staff members and and volunteers wearing protective face masks offloading medical supplies at a warehouse in Wuhan, China, on Feb 4, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

WUHAN (XINHUA) - As more hospitals and qualified third-party institutions join the effort, Wuhan is now able to test nearly 4,200 nucleic acid samples per day, local authorities said.

Apart from provincial and municipal centres for disease control and prevention, 25 hospitals and 12 qualified third-party institutions are also able to conduct nucleic acid testing, according to the Hubei Provincial Health Commission.

As of Monday (Feb 3), the novel coronavirus nucleic acid testing capability of Wuhan had increased to 4,196 samples per day from an initial 200 samples.

The city is not only improving its nucleic acid testing capability, but also adding more testing methods to diagnose patients as soon as possible so as to control possible transmission and offer the patients proper treatment.

More hospital beds are now available as the city raced to turn public facilities into makeshift hospitals.

The first such hospital, converted from an exhibition hall, began accepting patientson  Wednesday (Feb 5). The hospital will provide about 1,600 beds to infected patients.

Two other public facilities have also been turned into hospitals, with a total of 2,800 beds. They started to take in patients with mild symptoms late on Wednesday.

Over 10,000 confirmed cases of infection had been reported in Wuhan.

Computed tomography (CT) imaging has been added as an auxiliary testing method in Hubei, according to the latest diagnosis and treatment plan by the National Health Commission.

This suggests that the diagnosis of the novel coronavirus in the province will no longer be solely dependent on nucleic acid test results.

"The nucleic acid test result is the gold standard for the final diagnosis of novel coronavirus infections, but those who have a negative nucleic acid test result may see positive CT imaging results," said Dr Zhang Xiaochun with the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University.


"It takes us time to learn about the novel coronavirus as well as testing and treatment for the disease. The method may help ease the difficulty in conducting nucleic acid tests in a short period of time, helping control the epidemic.

"CT imaging is more convenient and accessible in primary hospitals. It will help reduce cross-infection, controlling the infection source and cutting off the transmission route because the patients, as soon as they are diagnosed, will be put under medical observation and receive necessary treatment."

Despite the coldness and darkness before dawn, groups of confirmed patients were transferred by ambulance from designated hospitals and community hospitals across Wuhan to a makeshift hospital converted from a gymnasium on Thursday (Feb 6).

Dr Cai Yuzhong, an emergency physician from Xiangya Second Hospital of Zhongnan University, and his colleagues were busy determining whether the patients would be admitted to the makeshift hospital.

Medical workers of the National Emergency Medical Rescue Team from Shanghai and the provinces of central China's Hunan, east China's Fujian and northeast China's Liaoning waited for hours to admit the patients during the rain.

"At present, only confirmed patients with mild symptoms have entered the hospital and they have begun to receive isolation and observation and take oral medications," Dr Cai said.

"The patients are in stable condition. Some of them came here voluntarily from their community, while others were transferred from designated hospitals.

"At first, some patients did not quite understand the practice of transferring them to the makeshift hospital and thought that it was irresponsible.

"But we would explain to them patiently that it is the right treatment for them and they can trust us." Dr Cai said that while strengthening the construction of supporting facilities at makeshift hospitals, the psychological stress of patients should also be considered.


On Feb 3, conversion work started on 13 venues, including gymnasiums, sports centres and exhibition halls. By Thursday morning, a total of 328 patients had been transferred to the three makeshift hospitals.

The city set up 132 quarantine sites by Tuesday, providing over 12,500 beds to cope with the surging number of patients confirmed or suspected to be infected with the novel coronavirus, said Mr Hu Lishan, deputy Communist Party chief Wuhan, at a press conference on the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

As hospital beds are still in short supply, Wuhan is gearing up to use private hospitals, hotels, schools and other places as designated sites for quarantine, observation and treatment of patients.

Hubei has subsidised funds totalling 400 million yuan (S$79 million) on construction of treatment sites across the province. "I hope that we can help them recover and go home as soon as possible," he said.