China boasted that it built 2 new coronavirus hospitals in 12 days. But they’re treating less than half the people they’re supposed to.

An image showing one of China’s new coronavirus hospitals during construction. AP

It was probably China’s biggest propaganda coup of the coronavirus outbreak: announcing and building two new hospitals in a time frame that was almost incomprehensible in the West.

Chinese state media livestreamed frantic construction efforts as first the Huoshenshan and then the Leishenshan hospitals sprang up out of nowhere, the first built in 10 days and the second in 12.

They were to provide sorely needed new beds for victims of the outbreak: 1,000 at Huoshenshan and 1,600 at Leishenshan.

China’s official Xinhua news agency called the quick turnaround “Mission Impossible made possible.” Cameras toured the fresh-built facilities and noted that patients were being moved in already.

Official data, however, shows that the utility of the hospitals has yet to match the pace or spectacle of their construction, with the facilities running at less than half their projected 2,600 capacity.

Here is a graph showing the number of occupied beds reported each day by local officials:

Wuhan new hospital beds graph
A chart showing the number of beds in use at two hospitals built swiftly in Wuhan, China, to treat coronavirus patients. Business Insider/Google

This chart shows the raw figures:

DateLeishenshan BedsHuoshenshan BedsFeb 2 0 0 Feb 3 0 50 Feb 4 0 45 Feb 5 0 76 Feb 6 0 86 Feb 7 0 86 Feb 8 30 286 Feb 9 85 382 Feb 10 88 803 Feb 11 90 924 Feb 12 123 1,013CAPACITY1,6001,000The hospitals combined had only 1,136 beds occupied out of a possible 2,600 beds available by Wednesday.

It is not clear what is responsible for the mismatch between the hospitals’ notional capacity and the reality.

According to The Guardian, elsewhere in the city there is a dire shortage of space, with exhibition centres and sports halls being converted into makeshift medical sites.

The virus has killed at least 1,360 people and infected more than 60,000. Most of the cases have been recorded in China’s Hubei province, where Wuhan is the largest city.

Medical staff test facilities and make the bed at Huoshenshan (Fire God Mountain) Hospital to make final preparations to admit patients infected with the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 3, 2020.
Staff testing brand-new facilities at the Huoshenshan hospital on the day it opened to patients. Getty

On Thursday, Hubei officials reported an enormous spike in cases: 14,840 new infections.

Earlier this month, officials said that major hospitals had to turn away patients because they were lacking beds and adequate medical resources.

“The medical resources in Wuhan, especially the ICU team, are not enough to deal with this severe treatment,” Jiang Rongmeng, a member of the Chinese National Health Commission’s team, said earlier this month, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The state news agency Xinhua said on Wednesday that the number of designated hospitals in Wuhan treating coronavirus patients has risen to 40. The two new hospitals, it said, would be used to treat patients in severe or critical condition.