Chilling dispatch from Coronavirus ground zero reveals apocalyptic scenes as killer bug turns Wuhan into a ghost town – The SunJanuary 22, 2020
This is coronavirus ground zero.
The once buzzing city of Wuhan has been reduced to a ghost town as doctors dressed in ominous hazmat suits continue to treat 440 cases of the bug, which has already claimed the lives of 17 in the city.
The Sun Online travelled to the deadly epicentre as cases rapidly increased to 300 in just one day, with fears that it could be declared by the World Health Organisation as a global crisis.
Desperate residents wearing facemasks has become the norm, so much so that many stores have completely sold out, leaving many frantically searching online for supplies.
Those who find a seller are routinely ripped off in the process by those appearing to cash in on the crisis.
The grey and largely deserted city of Wuhan, in the Hubei province and bigger than the city London, feels apocalyptic as its 11 million residents prepare for what could become a global crisis.
Blue and white police tape flutters in the fog-heavy breeze beyond the shuttered gates of Huanan Haixian Shichang, a once-thriving market at the epicentre of the outbreak.
Red plastic barriers mark a cordon of 10 meters or so outside the main entrance which opened its doors to sell everything from dried prawns to live porcupines as well as the trade of ‘illegal wild animals’.
The only signs that the virus was first discovered here on January 1 are a camouflage tent and a handful of paranoid guards on the lookout for any journalists trying to take photos.
Reporters who have been here since last night said it’s extremely high security around the market and hospital, with security guards and police threatening to arrest anyone taking photos or filming.
Rong Bao, 27, works on a stall selling cooked meat in a wet market less than a mile from the close market.
She said: "Every day the police are coming here to check everything and make sure the stalls are clean and hygienic. If not people are told to clean up and will be punished."
Our on the ground reporter, who is too fearful of the Chinese authorities to be identified, says there is little activity on the streets with people shutting themselves indoors.
She said: “Only the main transport hubs, such as the airport and the train station indicate that this is a city of 11 million, as families jostle with their suitcases, eager to escape to their Lunar New Year destinations, the most important festival in the Chinese calendar, in case an all-out quarantine is enforced.
"There’s a notable difference as soon as I land in Wuhan. In the airport, almost every single person, including staff, is wearing a face mask.
"There’s hand sanitizer on every desk and some staff are wearing gloves. I walked through an infrared camera in arrivals but no one seemed to be paying any attention.
"Travelling into the city by cab, even drivers who are alone in their cars are wearing masks. With the fog, pollution and rain."
Despite warnings against travelling in and out the city, train stations and airports remain busy in what is described as the ‘largest annual human migration of the year’, Chinese New Year.
This amount of mass movement could easily trigger an unstoppable global bug with ‘super-spreaders’ fuelling the crisis.
At Shanghai airport, a woman is heading to Wuhan to see her parents for Chinese New Year.
Wrapped up in a puffer coat, her small voice muffled further through an airtight face mask, Wang Chenlin, 42, said: "I have seen the news but nobody really understands the situation.
"It seems like it’s more or less the same as SARS. I’m scared but I have to go back because it’s New Year and my parents are on their own.
"They are wearing face masks every day but they’re old so they don’t go out that often."
It comes as experts in Britain said up to 10,000 people could already be infected and the death rate is currently the same as the Spanish flu epidemic, which killed millions after World War I.
Top leaders have warned that they are at a ‘critical stage’ in the prevention of the virus and urged lower-level officials not to cover-up the spread of the never-seen-before virus.
Rumours circulate of a city lockdown amid concerns about whether China's leaders are releasing realistic information and whether enough is being done to tackle the spread.
Airports around the world have taken their own measures to stop the bug from crossing borders, with London’s Heathrow airport now segregating incoming passengers for Wuhan as a precaution.
However, US President Donald Trump seemed less concerned about the virus as a global threat despite a US citizen being confirmed with the illness, saying during an interview that it was ‘totally under control’.
However, the death toll continues to rise after it was confirmed that human-to-human transmission of the virus had taken place.
Images from the Central Hospital of Wuhan show doctors in the intensive care unit wearing hazmat suits, while five other countries including the US, Thailand and Japan have confirmed cases.
The outbreak has caused alarm because of its connection to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
Coronaviruses cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe ones such as SARS.
The Chinese government initially tried to conceal the severity of that epidemic but its cover-up was exposed by a high-ranking physician.
With the potential spread through transport, the possibility of mutation and the chance of ‘super spreaders’ transmitting coronavirus to a greater number of people than average, it has all the symptoms of global takeover bug.
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