Life inside ground zero of Wuhan coronavirus outbreak

CNN international correspondent David Culver reports from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, where the city has set up stricter measures to stop the virus from spreading.

Posted: Jan 22, 2020 7:50 AM
Updated: Jan 22, 2020 7:50 AM

The Lunar New Year -- the most important festival in the Chinese calendar -- is just three days away, but in the Chinese city of Wuhan, there are few reasons to celebrate.

A deadly outbreak of the new coronavirus emerged in this city of 11 million people last month. Within weeks, the virus has killed nine people, sickened hundreds and spread as far as the United States.

Wuhan has been on high alert since the number of confirmed infections surged into the hundreds earlier this week.

New year celebrations that had been expected to attract hundreds of thousands of people have been canceled. In some parts of the city, including a major shopping area, streets remain largely empty, with most people walking outside donning face masks.

In the city's center, the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market sits empty, its rows of stalls shuttered. Police and security officers in face masks stand guard outside, prohibiting anyone from filming or entering a cordoned off area.

The market has always been a popular spot at this time of the year, packed with shoppers stocking up on fish and seafood for Lunar New Year feasts with family and friends.

But this year, Chinese authorities and scientists say wild animals sold at this market are the likely source of the new strain of coronavirus, which is in the same family of viruses as the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

The virus -- which can infect humans and animals -- has since spread to Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States. Officials in Washington state confirmed the first case on US soil Tuesday.

The market has been closed since January 1 for disinfection, but health authorities have not found out which animals are the source.

'How can I not be worried?'

Not far from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, Xiao Chuan'an, from a neighboring city, is selling sugar cane she imported from southern Guangdong province.

"I do feel a bit scared," she told CNN. "How can I not be worried? The situation sounds really serious. The news on the phone sounds really scary."

The country's National Health Commission confirmed this week the virus can be transmitted between people, after Wuhan health authorities maintained for two weeks that there was "no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission."

In Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, 270 people have been infected as of Wednesday, and nine of them have died, according to the commission. At least 453 cases had been confirmed throughout China, leading to fears of a possible epidemic.

Xiao said her family had repeatedly urged her to go home, fearing that she will catch the virus in Wuhan. But she wants to stay to sell the sugar cane. However, business has been bad -- people are too scared to come to the market to shop, she said.

"You can see now -- does it look like the atmosphere of Chinese New Year?" she said. "I don't know when the pneumonia epidemic will stop... I might have to eat instant noodles during Chinese New Year."

Emergency measures

The city government announced a series of new measures Tuesday to contain the outbreak -- efforts some critics say came too late -- the virus has already spread to a dozen provinces across the country.

Tour agencies in Wuhan have been banned from taking groups out of the city. Infrared thermometers have been installed at the airport, train stations, coach terminals and passenger piers to measure the temperatures of passengers departing the city since January 14, according to state media.

The city has over 60 routes connecting Wuhan with international cities, including direct flights to New York, San Francisco, Sydney, Paris and London, as well as over a hundred internal flights to other major Chinese cities. It is also a hub for the country's high-speed rail network.

At the high-speed rail station, the only faces that stand out are the uncovered ones, with the vast majority of passengers donning masks. As they prepare to exit the station, a railway staff member -- also wearing a mask and gloves -- puts a thermometer at the head of each passenger, checking for a fever.

On a high speed train from Beijing to Wuhan, railway attendants and security guards left their faces uncovered. A train attendant told CNN they were asked by management not to wear masks, as it may trigger a panic among passengers.

But she added that the train company is preparing to purchase masks and they will begin wearing them should the situation worsen.

Some hotels in the city said they will also screen guests, checking their temperature and asking them to sanitize their hands upon entry.

On Wednesday, the general manager of the Westin hotel in Wuhan told CNN he had asked staff to start wearing face masks "for both their safety and for the safety of our guests."

Others, however, are less worried about the outbreak. Yan Weixi, a jackfruit seller who did not wear a mask, said she did not find the situation "so scary."

"I have been checking online instructions... like drinking more water or washing your hands more frequently. I think that should be fine," said Yan, from northeastern Heilongjiang province, who is spending her first Lunar New Year in Wuhan.

"The most important thing is to keep a positive attitude, because if you're more scared, it's more likely you would catch the virus," she said. "That's my opinion."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32888

Reported Deaths: 1188
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds259141
DeSoto172418
Madison132635
Jones114049
Neshoba100473
Rankin98213
Harrison96911
Lauderdale92280
Forrest91643
Scott77915
Jackson68917
Copiah62015
Washington61710
Leake58919
Lee56220
Holmes56041
Oktibbeha55227
Wayne54515
Warren53218
Yazoo5236
Lowndes50913
Grenada5067
Leflore50053
Lamar4917
Lincoln48434
Pike45416
Monroe42534
Sunflower4208
Lafayette4094
Covington3755
Attala36523
Panola3646
Bolivar35618
Newton3479
Simpson3453
Adams31518
Tate31011
Pontotoc3046
Marion30012
Chickasaw28719
Claiborne28410
Winston2808
Noxubee2728
Jasper2676
Pearl River26532
Marshall2583
Clay24911
Smith22911
Union21810
Clarke21025
Coahoma2056
Walthall2056
Lawrence1872
Yalobusha1807
Kemper17914
Carroll16811
Humphreys1569
Tallahatchie1454
Calhoun1414
Montgomery1392
Tippah13811
Itawamba1378
Hancock13413
Webster12711
Jefferson Davis1134
Tunica1133
Jefferson1103
Prentiss1103
Greene1059
Amite1043
Wilkinson939
George913
Tishomingo891
Quitman811
Choctaw754
Alcorn742
Perry724
Stone692
Franklin452
Benton420
Sharkey370
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 46424

Reported Deaths: 1032
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5486155
Montgomery4246105
Mobile4219136
Tuscaloosa234644
Marshall177011
Madison15548
Lee143337
Shelby135724
Morgan11285
Walker98525
Baldwin9809
Elmore96215
Dallas9109
Franklin90216
Etowah79013
DeKalb7615
Chambers64327
Autauga63612
Butler63228
Tallapoosa60469
Russell5680
Unassigned52226
Limestone5181
Houston5106
Lauderdale5016
Lowndes47821
Cullman4705
Pike4525
Colbert4266
St. Clair4162
Escambia4118
Calhoun3875
Coffee3863
Covington3727
Bullock36810
Barbour3572
Talladega3237
Marengo31711
Hale31521
Dale3020
Jackson3022
Wilcox2948
Sumter28512
Clarke2836
Winston2663
Chilton2622
Blount2511
Monroe2412
Pickens2386
Marion23613
Conecuh2177
Randolph2169
Macon1999
Choctaw19712
Bibb1961
Greene1868
Perry1791
Henry1363
Crenshaw1253
Washington1187
Lawrence1090
Cherokee1037
Geneva840
Lamar801
Fayette721
Clay692
Coosa591
Cleburne391
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