China city converts COVID-19 quarantine camp into homes for ‘skilled talents’

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Local governments in China are looking for new uses for the makeshift quarantine facilities built during the pandemic, after years of strict COVID-zero rules left many authorities strapped for cash.

In the northeastern coastal province of Shandong, a facility measuring 20,563 square meters has been turned into temporary housing for workers, called the “Skilled Talents’ Condominium.”

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Located in the Jinan Innovation Zone Intelligent Equipment City, one of 10 high-tech industrial parks in the provincial capital Jinan, the complex opened its doors on January 26, according to an announcement last week from the WeChat account of the park.

Authorities said the idea came about after they received feedback about a lack of rental accommodation in the industrial park to provide for workers.

The facility’s rooms are currently being refurbished and will eventually be able to house 650 workers, with space for adding more depending on business demand. Rents will be “reasonably set by an external property management company based on local rates,” said the announcement. While the park is currently surrounded by barren fields, authorities said they were working to add more amenities, including fitness equipment and community services.

Representatives for the industrial park did not respond to emailed and phone queries from Bloomberg News.

China’s temporary quarantine facilities, also known as fangcang, became ubiquitous during the pandemic as authorities sent both suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients to them.

In some cases, venues like stadiums and exhibition halls were re-purposed, while others were hastily built using materials like shipping containers.

After China abruptly abandoned its COVID-zero policy in December, the facilities have become largely obsolete, leaving local governments that poured funds into them desperate to recoup costs. In some cities such as Guangzhou, local authorities have opted to close them down altogether.

In Hong Kong, which is also closing quarantine locations after scrapping compulsory isolation rules, the government is looking at what to do with shuttered facilities. One idea is to use them as youth dormitories, newspaper Sing Tao Daily reported Wednesday, citing unidentified people.

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