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Life under coronavirus lockdown: Anxiety and empty shelves as Wuhan residents prepare for long wait

CNN's David Culver speaks to residents in Wuhan, China, who describe the day-to-day life at the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis.

Posted: Feb 8, 2020 10:20 PM
Updated: Feb 8, 2020 10:20 PM

It has been three weeks since Wu Chen went into self-enforced quarantine in his Wuhan apartment, with only his cat, Baozi, for company.

He checks his own temperature twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, and cleans his apartment diligently to minimize the risk of catching the deadly coronavirus, which has now killed at least 780 people across Hubei province in central China.

Wu is one of millions of people who are all but confined to their homes in Wuhan and several other Chinese cities as authorities enforce an unprecedented lockdown that shows no sign of ending.

Since January 13, the 26-year-old graphic designer has only ventured outside his flat a few times, to stock up on supplies of food and protective face masks -- and to collect food for his cat.

"My friend said he could spare me some for free, so I drove over there to get cat food and masks. On the way, I barely saw any people on the streets. It is like this across the whole of Wuhan City," he said.

Since Wu shut himself off to the outside world, the numbers of infections and deaths across Hubei province has skyrocketed.

When the official Wuhan quarantine period was announced on January 23, fewer than 1,000 people had been infected by the highly contagious virus in mainland China. Now, there are more than 37,000 confirmed cases.

The lockdown was an unprecedented move in disaster response for China, which refrained from such drastic measures during the SARS epidemic of 2003.

Tens of millions of people are now unable to leave the city and the surrounding area, with checkpoints set up on roads, flights canceled and military police blocking train stations despite the suspension of train services.

Videos and photos from inside the quarantine zone in Wuhan have shown hospitals overflowing with desperate people and empty supermarket shelves as supplies run thin in the city.

But Wu, and several other local residents CNN spoke to, said they trusted the local authorities to get the virus under control. "I don't really have any real difficulties in daily life right now, except for that I'm extremely bored," he said.

A new father in Wuhan

On January 5, Justin Steece's wife, Li Ling, gave birth to their first son, Colm, at a Wuhan hospital.

Now the American teacher is desperately trying to find a way to get his family out of the city and back to the United States. The US consulate in Wuhan has already evacuated all of its staff.

Four evacuation flights left Wuhan for the US this week carrying US citizens who were considered most at risk of contracting the virus. No more evacuation flights are expected to be scheduled, a State Department official said Tuesday.

Steece was trying get his son and wife on board an evacuation flight, but had difficulties getting the right paperwork.

"The issue is the fact I need to register him as a US citizen but I couldn't do (that) because of the lockdown," he told CNN from his Wuhan apartment. "I couldn't get everything taken care of in time."

He said he's working with US authorities to find a way out.

Until the family's route out is confirmed, Steece is taking every precaution to avoid contamination.

When he goes out to get groceries, he wears a face mask over his nose and mouth and sunglasses to protect his eyes. He also puts on an extra layer of clothing, which is then washed once he gets back home.

Any shopping bags he uses are carefully wiped down with soap.

At the supermarket, there is a small selection of food -- fresh produce is a rare find. "Our current area is out of the large majority of vegetables, but at least we do get new supplies occasionally," he said. Other areas of the city are worse, he added.

Community spirit

As the quarantine continues, residents are coming together to share resources or send small groups out on shopping trips for multiple families, to limit the chance of infection.

In the small riverside town of Sandouping, in Hubei province, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Wuhan, PhD researcher Ping Huang said his family recently distributed about 750 kilograms (1,653 pounds) of vegetables to frontline workers such as police and doctors.

"My family runs a small hotel here ... We have more than enough food stocked for tourists that were supposed to be visiting this area during (Lunar New Year)," he said.

A student at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, Ping had returned home to be with his family for the Lunar New Year holiday. But on the morning of January 24, the local government began shutting down public transport.

The next day, no one could leave Sandouping. Ping said, despite being stuck staying with his family for two weeks, he is more bored than worried about the situation. Still, he asked CNN to not use his real name for fear of potential repercussions from the government for speaking publicly about the coronavirus.

"(When someone in my area was infected) the Center for Disease Control was involved in a timely manner, young people from that house were quarantined in their homes and senior citizens were taken to hospital," he said.

"Instead of being critical and outrageous, I think it is more sensible to recognize that almost everyone has been doing whatever they can do to make things better, including local authorities."

Killing time

As families all over Wuhan -- a city of 11 million people -- wait for the lockdown to lift, Chinese social media has been flooded with videos of citizens entertaining themselves by square dancing in their living rooms, or re-enacting Chinese operas.

Wuhan resident Wu has joined in, posting daily videos to TikTok of life under quarantine. In one of his videos, Wu plays hide and seek with his cat.

When not on camera, Wu said he does push ups, watches TV and practices his handwriting to pass the time.

"I wish the government had taken control of the situation earlier. If that were the case, maybe the epidemic wouldn't have lasted this long," he said. "But I trust the doctors, the nurses and the scientists. I believe the epidemic will pass."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 657037

Reported Deaths: 12450
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion901321624
Lake48105871
Allen35552632
Hamilton31839393
St. Joseph29538510
Elkhart25261412
Vanderburgh21115377
Tippecanoe19765197
Johnson16242352
Porter15838267
Hendricks15723296
Clark11843179
Madison11672314
Vigo11503228
Monroe10248158
Delaware9788178
LaPorte9720194
Howard9017194
Kosciusko8514107
Bartholomew7373147
Warrick7369146
Hancock7362128
Floyd7139164
Wayne6586188
Grant6395157
Morgan6040124
Boone603388
Dubois5868111
Dearborn540266
Henry539492
Marshall5390104
Cass537199
Noble506775
Jackson462063
Shelby458490
Lawrence4154111
Gibson399681
Harrison395160
Clinton392353
DeKalb382078
Montgomery381583
Knox354484
Miami354063
Whitley346235
Huntington338176
Steuben335955
Wabash328775
Putnam325959
Ripley325161
Adams320249
Jasper312943
White295351
Jefferson292770
Daviess284296
Fayette270255
Decatur269388
Greene259978
Posey259731
Wells255374
Scott248446
LaGrange240170
Clay238944
Randolph225076
Spencer215830
Jennings213544
Washington207727
Sullivan202038
Fountain200341
Starke185950
Owen181652
Jay177328
Fulton176437
Carroll175618
Perry172435
Orange170450
Rush163922
Franklin158335
Vermillion158040
Tipton145441
Parke137915
Pike127232
Blackford120027
Pulaski105643
Newton96431
Brown94639
Benton91113
Crawford90113
Martin80114
Switzerland7507
Warren74612
Union66810
Ohio52711
Unassigned0425

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 958153

Reported Deaths: 16968
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1109381191
Cuyahoga944201702
Hamilton72486944
Montgomery46927869
Summit39637941
Butler35004461
Lucas34724755
Stark29011826
Warren22137269
Lorain21738385
Mahoning19251533
Lake18178300
Clermont18172206
Delaware16261128
Licking14820194
Fairfield14378157
Trumbull14136454
Greene13470209
Medina13188218
Clark12121332
Wood11384193
Portage10829152
Allen10710231
Richland10165198
Miami9937179
Columbiana8049179
Muskingum8036123
Tuscarawas7974233
Pickaway795898
Marion7936134
Wayne7791216
Erie6783181
Ross6065135
Geauga5978129
Hancock5941110
Scioto5867105
Ashtabula5811140
Lawrence519073
Union505052
Darke5006122
Belmont484787
Sandusky472393
Jefferson4709107
Huron4701116
Seneca4620103
Athens456231
Mercer4559101
Auglaize453896
Washington451286
Shelby438867
Knox397884
Putnam3964101
Madison388747
Ashland374594
Fulton374364
Defiance3670101
Brown366742
Crawford354296
Preble350570
Logan349757
Clinton336162
Highland323652
Ottawa318467
Williams299578
Jackson287056
Guernsey283234
Champaign282545
Fayette265642
Perry265239
Morrow256624
Henry242665
Hardin241856
Holmes2416104
Coshocton230246
Van Wert227749
Gallia219446
Adams213732
Pike212025
Wyandot207652
Hocking192148
Carroll178828
Paulding158423
Meigs133536
Noble127842
Monroe114936
Harrison99132
Morgan98834
Vinton76215
Unassigned00
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