As countries around the world reopen borders and loosen coronavirus restrictions, Beijing is doubling down on its zero-COVID strategy. The latest example is a $260 million, 5,000-room quarantine facility for incoming travelers set to open in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou in the coming days.
Comprised of rows of three-story buildings topped with gray roofs in traditional Chinese style, the massive complex spans an area the size of 46 football fields and took less than three months to be built from scratch on the outskirts of the city.
According to CNN, the 5,000- room quarantine centre will replace designated hotels located throughout Guangzhou to quarantine Chinese and international travelers arriving from overseas, a move aimed at reducing residents’ exposure to imported cases.
Travelers will be transferred on buses directly from the airport, and confined to their rooms for at least two weeks. Each room is fitted with a video chat camera and an artificial intelligence-powered thermometer, with three meals a day delivered by robots all designed to minimize direct contact with staff members.
“It’s arguably the most state-of-the-art quarantine center in the world, if you will; very high tech, very sophisticated,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Guangzhou International Health Station is the first of its kind in China. But experts say it could be the first of many as the Chinese government intensifies its uncompromising, zero-tolerance strategy toward the coronavirus.
Already, the manufacturing hub of Dongguan, about an hour’s drive from Guangzhou, is building its “international health station” with 2,000 rooms. Further south, the technology hub of Shenzhen is also planning for such a facility.
“This is not just a stopgap measure. (Chinese leaders) hold the view that this pandemic is going to take a while to end, and China is going to continue this strict control of its borders,” Huang said. “Facilities like this serve as a way to institutionalize the zero-tolerance strategy.”