Somewhat controversially, China has had temporarily relocated those infected with Covid-19 in the Wuhan area to so-called Fangcang hospitals, large communal areas transformed into make-shift hospitals. Although there were up to 13 Fangcang hospitals opened at one point in Wuhan, these were apparently all closed by March 10.

Fangcang shelter hospitals may seem similar to the makeshift and emergency field hospitals used during previous epidemics in other countries, for example, in the USA during the 1918–19 influenza pandemic, or in African countries during the 2014–15 Ebola epidemic. However, they differ in several important ways. First, the Fangcang shelter hospitals in China were established to isolate the patients who were most likely to transmit the infection because they had only mild to moderate COVID-19 and were thus likely to be active in their daily lives and in contact with family and community members. Second, the Fangcang shelter hospitals served an important triage function, separating patients by severity of symptoms, which was not a focus of previous makeshift and emergency field hospitals. [...]

These Fangcang hospitals should not be confused with the other kind of emergency hospitals that China had built earlier, for those more seriously sick with Covid-19, such as the Huoshenshan Hospital. (The latter was a prefab hospital with separate rooms.)

I've heard that some countries are already considering converting open-space structures to some kind of emergency/extra hospitals, e.g. as seen in this US footage. While the open-space conversion resembles more a Fangcang than the other type of prefab Chinese hospital, what do know about plans to mass-quarantine the mild cases in such open-space-conversion hospitals elsewhere, i.e. do (any of) these resemble Fangcangs in (intended) function, not just in looks?


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Yes, several countries are planning to implement this approach, and in some cases, already have. On March 12th, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), an EU agency, updated its rapid risk assessment on the COVID-19 pandemic, in which it advises states to

designate treatment facilities both for mild and for severe COVID-19 cases with critical care capabilities (e.g. ECMO). This implies activation of hospital plans to the highest level to be able to cancel elective diagnostic and operative procedures and re-assign human resources, creating temporary treatment facilities for the mild cases or advising self-isolation until symptoms improve or worsen.

The WHO also released guidance to this effect on March 17th, reiterating that

WHO recommends that all laboratory confirmed cases be isolated and cared for in a health care facility.


If all mild cases cannot be isolated in health facilities, then those with mild illness and no risk factors may need to be isolated in non-traditional facilities, such as repurposed hotels, stadiums or gymnasiums where they can remain until their symptoms resolve and laboratory tests for COVID-19 virus are negative.

In Madrid, this advice was implemented with a temporary hospital set up in the IFEMA conference centre. The first patients arrived at the facility on March 21st, and initially had a capacity for 200 patients with 'mild' cases of COVID-19. Capacity will eventually be extended to 1300 beds, with a small number of ICU units in case these mild cases progress to severe cases.

Hotel Vía Castellana has also been converted (article in Spanish) to a temporary hospital for mild cases, with six of the hospital's floors converted to facilities for the lightly ill, and a seventh converted to house medical staff.

In South Korea, this strategy has also been used - the WSJ reports that in order to solve the issue of hospital overcrowding:

South Korea divided confirmed patients into four categories. Only the sickest and elderly went to hospitals. The young and asymptomatic went to dormitories, which were lent by Samsung Life Insurance Co., LG Display Co. and others, equipped with little more than beds, Wi-Fi and the occasional television.

The decision ensured that low-risk individuals remained quarantined under government watch. Thousands of South Korea’s virus patients have ridden out the past several weeks living in buildings where companies typically put up workers for off-site, multiday training.

In the Phillipines, "Emergency Quarantine Facilities" (EQFs) are being planned, temporary centres designed for "patients who are waiting for test results or have mild symptoms but aren’t in dire straits — a way to keep potentially infected people separate from their communities."

Many countries, however, have chosen not to adopt this strategy, instead advising those with mild to moderate symptoms to self-isolate, prioritising hospital beds, including field hospital beds, for those most at risk or with the worst symptoms. In Singapore, the country had enough hospital capacity to deal with all patients, including those with mild symptoms, due in part to the amount of testing and contact tracing which was used to isolate and quarantine cases.

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    I didn't expect this to be so widespread, or I would have asked differently. But your answer has been quite comprehensive anyway. Apr 6, 2020 at 10:16

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