(Bloomberg) -- For the millions of people trapped in Wuhan and other cities in China’s Hubei province, life has taken on a feeling of imprisonment and boredom.
While some 5 million people left Wuhan before officials locked down the city on Thursday in a attempt to limit the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus, 9 million are left, according to the city’s mayor. Roads are empty, prices of fresh groceries are surging, and inhabitants are wondering how long they need to stay in their apartments.
Premier Li Keqiang visited the central Chinese city on Monday as the Communist Party scrambled to contain the fallout of the disease, which has sickened more than 2,700 and killed at least 80 people. But that’s of little immediate solace to those stuck at home, especially during the biggest holiday of year.
“We are living a life like a pig -- eat, then sleep,” said Ann Zhou, a Wuhan resident in her early 30s, adding she hasn’t left her home in Jiangan district in Wuhan city once since the lockdown started. “It’s dull, but we have to be at home all the time to avoid contamination.”
Allen Chen, a 25-year-old researcher at a tech firm who moved to Wuhan in December, said he hasn’t left his apartment for five days. He said a lot of his colleagues fled the city when the government announced the impending travel ban but he decided it would be safer to stay. He also didn’t want to endanger his family back in Tianjin by returning home.
He bought enough frozen dumplings and other groceries for about two weeks before the ban was imposed, and is reluctant to order food from delivery firms. He doesn’t know when he’ll return to work.
“I was quite panicked in the first few days, but now I’m getting used to it and in a better mental situation given that the death number looks small compared to the total confirmed cases. I think it’s quite safe for me if I just isolate myself at home,” Chen said.
Another Wuhan resident, who only identified herself as Hu, said the market was closed but sellers were hawking vegetables outside for three times the normal price. No one walks in the streets of Hanyang district where she lives. The 34-year-old student said she doesn’t know when her university will reopen.
Along with worry over getting sick, there’s frustration over how the local government and media have handled the outbreak, as well as concern over a lack of medical resources given the swelling numbers of sick.
“My Wuhan friends and I are all quite unsatisfied by the government’s work,” said Chen, the tech firm researcher. “The virus emerged in early December and they had a month’s time to tackle it. But now things are in such a state, hospitals are short of everything. It’s a neglect of duty.”
Jasper Ouyang, a 26-year-old student who returned home to a village close to the city of Huanggang in Hubei for the holidays, says the provincial government has done a poor job handling the virus.
“Things would be in a much better situation if they took actions earlier.”
Hu, who’s husband is a surgeon at a major hospital in Wuhan, said medical staff are exhausted. Two doctors she knows came down with fever -- from overwork, not the virus.
“The last time I spoke with two of my doctor friends on Jan. 24, they said that hospital is being mismanaged. Contaminated patients are not separated from others. It’s a bad situation,” she said.
Efforts to expand capacity for patients will improve the situation, Hu added. The government is quickly building a new hospital in Wuhan to handle additional cases.
Even as authorities step up their efforts to contain the virus, for residents like Gabriel Tang, a 20-year old student at Peking University now back in his hometown of Wuhan, things will likely remain the same for now.
“We have stored a lot of groceries and necessities at home in advance, so there’s not much pressure to go out for the time being,” he said. “We are all being very cautious, trying to avoid going out. But on the other, we are very confident in the government.”
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