Authorities in Hubei province -- the center of the coronavirus outbreak -- said on Wednesday that medical facilities across the province should do "whatever can be done" to hospitalize confirmed and suspected patients, as part of an effort to pinpoint and quarantine all possible sources of infection.
Hospitals unable to handle more such patients must register the cases and report them to local epidemic prevention offices, which will arrange vehicles to take the patients to designated quarantine sites, according to an announcement by provincial epidemic prevention authorities.
Breach of the rules could lead to serious punishments in accordance with the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Law, according to the announcement.
The move came as the now sealed-off province raced over the past two weeks to build makeshift facilities to treat coronavirus patients and suspected infections, which have overwhelmed local hospitals and strained medical supplies.
The two most widely known facilities are the Huoshenshan Hospital -- a 1,000-bed facility finished in 10 days and put into use on Tuesday -- and the 1,600-bed Leishenshan Hospital, due to be finished on Thursday. The two hospitals in the provincial capital of Wuhan are modeled after Beijing's Xiaotangshan Hospital built during the 2003 SARS outbreak, and specialize in treating severe infections.
In addition to the two hospitals, Hu Lishan, deputy Party chief of the city, told a news conference on Wednesday that construction has begun on other makeshift facilities to handle suspected cases and their close contacts.
Three have been finished, converted from two convention centers and a gym, and will be put into use starting Wednesday night, he said.
They have also recruited private hospitals, schools and hotels and set up 132 designated quarantine sites, with more than 12,000 beds. More than 5,400 people are under quarantine there.
It was part of a citywide effort to reduce the cross-infection risk by quarantining four groups of people in separated facilities -- confirmed cases, suspected cases, fever patients with pneumonia symptoms and their close contacts.