PHOTOS: My 13 days and nights in a makeshift hospital

Infected with Covid, Wu Linsong recently spent two weeks in a temporary hospital set up in Shanghai’s expo center. It didn’t prove nearly as easy to get bored as Wu expected. He passed his time taking photos and chatting with people.

The moon brightens the night sky over the “square cabin.”

The moon brightens the night sky over the “square cabin.”

Photos by WU Linsong

Written by WANG Tingting


Infected with Covid, on April 1, 2022, Wu Linsong found himself at Shanghai New International Expo Center, where he would remain for the next 13 days. Compared with outside, Wu found life here stable and satisfying, if not a little bit boring.

Expo Fangcang is a makeshift hospital set up to take care of Covid patients. The name - fangcang (方舱) - means “square cabin.” It’s a modular, temporary, prefabricated building used in military field hospitals, workcamps, and exhibitions, and a term people have become all too familiar with since the outbreak.

A social media content creator, Wu took pictures, shot videos, and chatted with people – all kinds of people. Most of the patients were mild cases, so few were worried about themselves. Instead, worries were directed to hospital workers - physically and mentally exhausted, working around the clock in hazmat suits, unable to eat or drink, nor engage in any of the biological practices that traditionally follow eating and drinking, for hours on end.

There is no shortage of videos complaining about life in fangcang shelters, and, while Wu understood what motivates people to complain, he wanted to bring a little more balance to the picture. Wu often woke up with breakfast already on his bedside table. Workers took his temperature while he was sleeping. Thinking of these details, he is both moved and a little ashamed.

Wu’s photos from the Expo Fangcang, do not adequately show the work of hospital staff. He planned to shoot many more images, both for and of the staff, but they were busy. There had more pressing tasks than facing the camera, and Wu had no intention of interrupting.

Here is Wu's account.

It’s pretty challenging to take care of a lively group of people like us.

Problems do exist, such as poor facilities, noise and questionable food, but the sanitation problem is not that serious.

You cannot just complain, you should start by taking action yourself. If people flush the toilet, stop throwing cigarette butts around and clean up their own garbage, everything will be better for everyone.

“Do you believe in the light?” She wants everyone to know she has come to support Shanghai from a hospital in Jiujiang, Jiangxi Province, 700 km away.


Outside the fangcang, the lights never go out, the laundry crisis never ends, but the patients are rarely downhearted.
It’s early April and the weather in Shanghai is good. At seven in the morning, a young woman basks in the early sun. Lost in thought, she remains still for a long time.
The door is locked, but patients now bask in the evening sun. This quiet corner always welcomes patients who are lost in thought.


A closed door is briefly opened. Patients wander in the new space, a testing site. During his last five days at Expo Fangcang, Wu takes a Covid test every day.
Wu has seen the woman on the left many times, always looking like she has just finished work. Perhaps she loves sunshine, just like himself?
The man meditates. Wu jokes, that he is already infected by Covid-19, and it is too late for martial arts to protect him.
Wu tries to surprise the worker many times, but each time she moves too fast and the photo is blurry, though the message, and the love, are clear – Happy birthday, my son.
People have been lying on their beds for too long, they need to move. One day around 4pm, four women begin dancing, much as women do – or did pre-Covid – in public squares all over China. In Expo Fangcang, people like this kind of square dancing and perform tai chi together.
A volunteer and medical worker who has been busy all night head for breakfast together. The one in the red vest is a patient and a volunteer. Patients in the shelter help however they can, delivering packages and serving meals.
In such a drab environment, people need colorful things. Otherwise, life will be too dark.
In the fangcang, people are forever washing and drying their clothes. It gives life a more normal rhythm.
The iron boundary provides an excellent sunny spot for the daily wash.
Most patients are middle-aged or elderly, with only a small number of young people. The most common recreational activity is no different in the fangcang from anywhere else. People like staring into their mobile phones.
In a state of isolation, people all yearn for life outside. At 8 pm, the garbage gets taken out. It is exciting enough for people to gather to watch.
There is no shower room inside the hospital. People get warm water from the faucet and carry it to the washroom. Wu is quite comfortable with this way of bathing, but many people are not.
On April 13, former patients leave Expo Fangcang. Every patient is carefully disinfected from head to toe one last time before leaving.
It is drizzling, former patients remain patient while waiting for the bus to take them home. Wu is lucky enough to have a ride waiting though the window is foggy.
Orderly till the end, grateful patients shuffle on the bus and head home.