- Central military command orders PLA medical personnel based in the city to help civilian doctors and nurses
- 40 doctors already working in the intensive care unit of Wuhan Pulmonary Hospital and more to follow
China is mobilising its military doctors to help to contain the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, state media reported on Friday.
According to the national broadcaster CCTV, the central military command has ordered medical staff to help civilian doctors and nurses.
The report said 40 medical officers from the city's military hospital had already started work in the intensive care unit of Wuhan Pulmonary Hospital.
By Friday night, mainland China had reported over 890 confirmed cases of infection and 26 deaths.
The United States, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Thailand, as well as Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan have also reported confirmed cases.
The 40 officers are reported to be an advance party and the General Hospital of the People's Liberation Army in Beijing will send more in the coming days.
Wuhan is rushing to build a makeshift hospital on its outskirts as a quarantine and treatment centre for patients in the latest coronavirus outbreak, replicating a step regarded as instrumental in Beijing's fight 17 years ago against severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).
In April 2003, Beijing built a similar facility in the town of Xiaotangshan. The PLA took over the 1,000-bed facility " named PLA Sars hospital " which treated almost 15 per cent of Sars patients nationwide in two months.
A medical practitioner who worked at the PLA General Hospital said that the hospital would send staff from its infectious disease centre to help run the new hospital and quarantine centre in Wuhan once it was ready.
Staff there held an oath-taking ceremony on Wednesday pledging they would do their utmost to win the battle against the new coronavirus.
"We all swore that we will follow the order, make sacrifices if necessary and do our jobs as required and would not be afraid to suffer or even to die," he said. "(We were told that) we triumphed over Sars and we will win again this time."
W. Ian Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, said the PLA was good at mobilisation, particularly in mass campaigns.
"There are different ways of looking at the army. It would be helpful since the army has a history of being able to organise large groups of people, so for example, if you wanted to have a vaccination campaign, they could be very helpful in that respect," he said.
"It's not necessarily a bad thing to have the military involved, it depends on how they're involved."
Besides the PLA, the National Commission of Health is also dispatching medical specialists to Wuhan to join the fight against the virus, China National Radio reported.
The first team comprises experts in intensive care, and from respiratory and infectious units from hospitals in Shanghai, Jiangsu and Sichuan. Meanwhile, 21 supervisory teams will be sent to local hospitals in provinces to help direct and train local medical staff.
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