The mainland city of Wuhan as been cut off from the rest of the world as government officials shut down transport routes in a desperate bid to stop the spread of the mystery new virus which has already claimed 17 lives. As the rest of China prepared for the New Year festivities, with hundreds of millions of people on their way home or off on vacation, people in Wuhan begged for help.
Planes and trains out of Wuhan - the outbreak epicentre of the Sars-like virus - were cancelled, with public transport also suspended as authorities told residents not to leave..
The search term “Wuhan is sealed off” had been read at least 510 million times on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform by this morning with some 214,000 discussion posts.
Some residents said they were on the “verge of tears” as they read news of the lockdown, adding that their families’ lives were “threatened constantly and the target of online abuse”.
“We consciously avoid going out, disinfect diligently and wear masks,” wrote one user in a social media post. “But there is a lack of food and disinfectants, and we need more resources. We hope everyone can understand that we are feeling as though it is the end of the world.
“We really need everyone’s help”.
Some called on the government to provide more resources to Wuhan, saying there were not enough masks to buy and that food prices were rising. One user said: “Could the government help to resolve the issue of resources? Can we control food prices?”
The number of confirmed cases of pneumonia caused by the new Sars-like virus is at least 570, according to China’s National Health Commission, with most in Wuhan.
One video being shared on social media showed a bride in a nearby city wearing a surgical mask, and saying that all the guests who had visited Wuhan for work had been seated at the same table. Chinese New Year is a popular time for weddings.
Another social media user, whose location was tagged as Wuhan, said she is skipping a reunion dinner this year and apologised to her family online.
Video clips of reporters from local news outlets, who were shown wearing masks on camera, made the rounds online as well.
Netizens from outside the city expressed sadness and concern for residents, urging them to stay safe. Others were angry at the authorities for taking so long to seal off the city.
Some blamed people in Wuhan for eating wild animals. It is believed that animals are the primary source of the outbreak, and a now-closed wildlife and seafood market in Wuhan where they were “illegally sold” is believed to be the source of the outbreak.
One user asked: “Do people enjoy eating wild animals that much? Hasn’t the lesson from Sars been enough?”