A 500-bed infectious diseases hospital will be built under a Hospital Authority proposal to prepare Hong Kong for future medical crises. The decision comes after health-care workers and lawmakers criticised the existing public hospital system for failing to handle the outbreak which started in March. And in Geneva, Vice-Premier Wu Yi said on Monday that the Chinese government would spend as much as 8 billion yuan (HK$7.5 billion) to build a new centre for disease control, which would probably be completed before 2008. Revealing the proposal yesterday, Hospital Authority chief executive William Ho Shiu-wei admitted that a shortage of isolation wards and facilities for infection control had increased the risk of cross-infections at hospitals. Dr Ho said yesterday that Hong Kong had 'learned a lesson' from Sars. 'We never expected to have to deal with something as massive as Sars. Hong Kong is a very dense city. An outbreak could easily create public panic. We have to plan ahead,' he said. The authority also plans to build a 100-bed hospital block for infectious disease patients at Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung. The hospital, which has 60 isolation wards, is the only public hospital well equipped to deal with outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Sars.