Wuhan has been on high alert since the number of infections confirmed It increased to hundreds earlier this week.
New Year’s celebrations that were expected to attract hundreds of thousands of people have been canceled. In some parts of the city, including an important commercial area, the streets remain largely empty, and most people walk outside with their masks.
In the center of the city, Huanan’s wholesale seafood market is empty, its rows of stalls closed. Police and security officers with facial masks stand guard outside, prohibiting anyone from filming or entering a cordoned off area.
The market has always been a popular place at this time of year, full of buyers who stock up on fish and shellfish for Lunar New Year parties with family and friends.
But this year, Chinese authorities and scientists say that wild animals sold in this market are the likely source of the new coronavirus strain, which belongs to the same family of viruses as severe and fatal acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). ).
The virus, which can infect humans and animals, has spread to Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States. Officials in Washington state confirmed the first case on US soil on Tuesday.
The market has been closed since January 1 for disinfection, but health authorities have not discovered which animals are the source.
‘How not to be worried?’
Not far from Huanan’s seafood wholesale market, Xiao Chuan’an, from a neighboring city, sells sugarcane that he imported from the southern province of Guangdong.
“I feel a little scared,” he told CNN. “How not to be worried? The situation sounds very serious. The news on the phone sounds really scary.”
In Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, 270 people have been infected until Wednesday and nine of them have died, according to the commission. At least 453 cases have been confirmed throughout China, creating fear of a possible epidemic.
Xiao said her family had repeatedly urged her to go home, fearing that the virus would be spread in Wuhan. But she wants to stay to sell the sugar cane. However, the business has been bad: people are too scared to go to the market to buy, he said.
“You can see now, does it look like the atmosphere of the Chinese New Year?” she said. “I don’t know when the pneumonia epidemic will stop … I might have to eat instant noodles during the Chinese New Year.”
The city government announced on Tuesday a series of new measures to contain the outbreak, efforts that some critics say arrived too late, the virus has already spread to a dozen provinces across the country.
Tourism agencies in Wuhan are prohibited from taking groups out of the city. According to state media, infrared thermometers were installed at the airport, train stations, bus terminals and passenger docks to measure the temperatures of passengers leaving the city since January 14.
The city has more than 60 routes that connect Wuhan to international cities, including direct flights to New York, San Francisco, Sydney, Paris and London, as well as more than one hundred internal flights to other major cities in China. It is also a center for the country’s high-speed rail network.
In the high-speed train station, the only faces that stand out are those discovered, with the vast majority of passengers wearing masks. As they prepare to leave the station, a railroad staff member, who also wears a mask and gloves, places a thermometer on each passenger’s head, to check for fever.
On a high-speed train from Beijing to Wuhan, railroad assistants and security guards exposed their faces. A train attendant told CNN that management asked them not to wear masks, as it could cause panic among passengers.
But he added that the train company is preparing to buy masks and will start using them if the situation worsens.
Some hotels in the city said they will also evaluate guests, monitor their temperature and ask them to disinfect their hands upon entering.
On Wednesday, the general manager of the Westin hotel in Wuhan told CNN that he had asked the staff to start wearing face masks “both for their safety and for the safety of our guests.”
Others, however, are less worried about the outbreak. Yan Weixi, a jaca vendor who didn’t wear a mask, said she didn’t find the situation “so scary.”
“I’ve been checking the instructions online … like drinking more water or washing your hands more frequently. I think it should be fine,” said Yan, from the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, who is spending his first lunar new year in Wuhan .
“The most important thing is to maintain a positive attitude, because if you are more afraid, you are more likely to get the virus,” he said. “That’s my opinion.”