China’s ‘zero-Covid’ infrastructure gets makeover for better use

By Guillermo Benavides Moine

Beijing, Mar 2 (EFE).- From street food stalls to improvised winter shelters, the infrastructure necessitated by China’s strict “zero-Covid” policy is getting a facelift these days to prevent the facilities – which cost millions of dollars to set up – from turning into junk.

For three long years until this January, China enforced one of the world’s strictest anti-Covid policies, backed by infrastructure for quarantine centers, camp hospitals and thousands of cabins for PCR-tests that later disappeared almost overnight.

PCR tests stopped being compulsory to enter public places, supermarkets or restaurants, and over 30,000 cabins being used for testing by cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, were no longer of use, according to local media outlets.

As the pandemic virtually disappeared from the collective imagination suddenly, the physical remnants that could remind citizens of the terrible times were also improvised for new usage.

The makeovers also help prevent an investment worth 30 billion yen ($4.32 billion) in the capital alone from going to waste, according to regional daily South China Morning Post.

In many cities, the cubicles have been readapted and now help security guards take shelter from cold during the winter.

Similarly, special areas where citizens would sometimes wait for hours to queue up for PCR tests have been turned into recreational or social-interaction areas.

In the city of Shanghai, media reports say that barely 1,000 of the around 15,000 cabins put up for testing remained operational for their original use soon after Jan. 8, when the Covid policy was eased.

By now, the majority of these huts have been relocated, but some have been transformed into small clinics for consultation and distribution of medicines, as an extension of public health centers. Others simply serve as a resting place for workers.

In the eastern city of Suzhou, local authorities offered 30 of the cubicles to various entrepreneurs to turn into food stalls or shops as part of a street market during the Lunar New Year celebrations.

In the city of Hangzhou, set to host the next Asian Games in September, more than 170 cabins have been adapted into tourist exhibits ahead of the event, which was postponed by a year due to the pandemic.

The Surplus stock of the cubicles is also available for purchase on e-commerce platforms such as Taobao for a price of around 100 yuan apiece.

Another kind of infrastructure that helped tackle the pandemic are the numerous quarantine centers.

Many of these facilities, usually a row of identical blocks or containers, have been turned into observation posts or are being given a facelift with an eye on future health crises.

Beijing, which hosted two Olympic Games in the last 15 years, has a lot of experience in reusing old facilities.

One quarantine center in the capital’s Chaoyang district, consisting of hundreds of colorful containers spread over 15 hectares (37 acres), is being prepared to host those affected by another infectious disease during a future epidemic if required.

The officials in-charge of the facility claim that the patients’ experience in the future would be better than during the Covid, as they would install personal TV sets in the rooms, in a world connected to internet, among other things.

“I think it is good to maintain these things if they are useful and get rid of them otherwise,” a passerby told EFE in Beijing as he looked at one of the few surviving cabins on the street. EFE


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