Shanghai, which is in the midst of a severe Covid-19 outbreak, is turning the city’s massive exhibition halls into temporary hospitals and quarantine centres as it gears up for an anticipated influx of patients. China’s commercial and financial capital has converted Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & Convention Centre and Shanghai New International Expo Centre (SNIEC) into fangcang, a kind of makeshift hospital first used during the Covid-19 pandemic in Wuhan two years ago. They have been designated as quarantine sites to accommodate infected people who either have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic. Wu Qianyu, a senior official with Shanghai Health Commission, said on Tuesday that the city government was planning to transform more public venues, including exhibition and convention halls and indoor stadiums, into large-scale hospitals that could house thousands of residents infected by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. “Covid-19 infections are growing day by day at a rapid pace, ratcheting up pressure on the city’s public health system,” she said. “To date, the city and district-level governments have started operations of a batch of designated quarantine sites, and we are also transforming some big public venues into temporary hospitals.” She did not name the venues or the number of beds they will accommodate. Shanghai has reported about 26,000 Covid-19 infections since the current outbreak started in the beginning of March, most of which are asymptomatic. Pudong, to the east of Huangpu River, is currently under a four-day lockdown up to April to contain the outbreak, while Puxi on the western bank will be sealed off from April 1 to 5. Two local officials with knowledge of the matter said that Shanghai was also about to use Oriental Land, a big park with several pavilions located in southwestern Qingpu district to house positive Covid-19 cases. The two exhibition centres, once seen as symbols of Shanghai’s rise into a global commercial hub, are major venues for international events such as the World Artificial Intelligence Conference and Consumer Electronics Show Asia. The World Expo Exhibition & Convention Centre was one of the five key permanent structures built in 2010 when Shanghai hosted the world’s most extravagant exposition. It is now home to a 6,000-bed temporary hospital. The SNIEC, once the largest exhibition hall in Shanghai, covers 300,000 square metres and can receive about 14,000 Covid-19 patients. Both halls are located in Pudong. Shanghai’s gates stand ajar as 3 in 100 flights take off at Pudong airport “Their huge size and good locations are the main characteristics that led to the decision by city officials to turn them into fangcang,” said Chen Xiao, CEO of Shanghai Yacheng Culture, a marketing and branding consultancy. “As lockdown and prevention measures disrupt the local economy and business activities, the venues are the best places to house Covid-19 patients.” The SNIEC was eclipsed by the 600,000 sq metre National Exhibition and Convention Centre at Qingpu in 2016, which was built at a cost of 23 billion yuan (US$3.6 billion) to hone the city’s image as a global trading hub. It is unclear whether the colossal hall will be used for Covid-19 patients.