Wuhan closes temporary hospitals, could others be next?


Leishenshan Hospital opened early February to treat the overflow of COVID-19 patients during some of the worst days of the crisis in Wuhan.

Wuhan Hospital Closure Citation.pngIt was the second of 16 temporary hospitals built in the Chinese city at the heart of the coronavirus pandemic.

As the number of new patients fell, authorities said in early March they planned on closing the makeshift hospitals, marking a milestone in Wuhan’s battle with the coronavirus.

Leishenshan Hospital Citation.pngSatellite imagery collected of Leishenshan Hospital in April paints a different picture than in February. Gone is the hustle-and-bustle, suggesting the facility has ceased operations (See figures below). 

This timeline is a reason for cautious optimism.

Around the same time China was closing temporary hospitals in Wuhan, similar facilities were popping up in dozens of cities around the world.

If China could get things under control, then so too should other countries. Right?

This would mean the US could potentially see material improvements by June using China’s chronology as a guidepost. 

However, not everyone is sanguine. For one, China’s data is believed to undercount the number of infections and deaths.

In mid-April, Chinese health officials revised the COVID-19 death toll in Wuhan, adding 1,290 fatalities, raising the total to 3,869. 

Is this evidence of a systematic problem? Or routine statistical exercise?

With the lockdown lifted, some experts fear a second wave of cases could arrive next.

Figuring out the situation on-the-ground can be difficult. Satellite imagery can help provide answers.

Ursa specializes in satellite imagery analysis. While most of the imagery is derived from satellite radar, we also utilize electro-optical imagery.

Figure 1 shows the parking lot in October 2019 before the hospital was constructed. 

Figure 1

Figure 1

From start to finish, it took only 10 days to complete using prefabricated modules.

Figure 2 shows the site after construction:

Figure 2

Figure 2

In February, when the coronavirus was decimating the city of 11 million residents, the temporary hospitals provided badly needed care as medical resources were overwhelmed.

The 16 temporary hospitals in Wuhan added a total of 13,000 beds, including 1,600 beds at Leishenshan.

Figure 3 shows the hospital at the height of the outbreak on Feb 20: 

Figure 3

Figure 3

Our team of imagery experts analyzed optical satellite photos of Leishenshan Hospital for signs of change.

Cars populate the immediate vicinity of the hospital, likely a sign of new patients arriving. 

Figure 4 shows the same area on April 24.

The physical structures haven’t changed, but vehicles are mostly absent from the area. This does not look like a working hospital.

Figure 4

Figure 4

Yet it’s far too soon to say what comes next. Will Leishenshan and other temporary hospitals stay shut? Or will their doors reopen when another surge of COVID-19 cases sweeps through Wuhan? 

After authorities eased travel restrictions in Wuhan on April 8, ending a 76-day lockdown, residents remained on high alert. Life has not returned to normal. 

We’ll keep an eye on the situation and provide updates.

Ursa is continuously monitoring vital locations around the world using satellite imagery to provide a deeper understanding of the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.

You can explore our findings in our COVID-19 Dashboard.




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