Deserted Wuhan: Tourist films empty streets in China's virus epicentre

Deserted Wuhan: US tourist films empty streets in Chinese coronavirus epicentre after city’s 11 million residents are put on lockdown to stop spread of the bug

  • US woman took the eerie footage while walking through central Wuhan Sunday
  • It shows ordinarily busy junctions, bus and train stations completely empty 
  • Wuhan’s 11million residents have been put on lock-down by the government 
  • Coronavius has killed 81 and infected 2,800 globally since it spreading from city

Footage taken by a US tourist in Wuhan, the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus, shows the city’s deserted streets after its 11million people were put on lockdown.

It shows closed bus stations, taxi ranks and racks of unused rental bicycles, as well as major junctions with barely a car in sight.

The only business which could be seen operating was the pharmacy. ‘Naturally, everyone is paranoid at a time like this … so, that’s one place that’s open,’ the woman comments while filming on Sunday.

The city has been cut off from all rail, road and air transport since last Wednesday to contain the virus which has killed at least 81 people in China and infected another 2,800 worldwide. 

Footage taken by a US woman in Wuhan, the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus, shows deserted roads (left) and racks of unused rental bicycles (left)

A security worker in a hazmat suit speaks to subway staff wearing a mask at a subway station entrance on Monday

It is not clear what the American woman was doing in Wuhan, however many foreigners live in the city which has a large student population.


  • China today extended its New Year holiday to fight the killer coronavirus outbreak which has killed 81 people and struck down more than 2,800 people  
  • Scientists following the outbreak fear more than 100,000 people have been infected already, considerably more than official toll – others have said it could as high as 350,000  
  • Reports have surfaced that some suspected coronavirus carriers coming to the UK may have been wrongly told they don’t need to be tested unless they have ‘the sniffles’
  • France’s Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said anyone wanting to leave Wuhan would be taken back on a direct flight and then held in quarantine for two weeks
  • China’s health minister Ma Xiaowei said ‘it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger’ and it can be passed from person-to-person even before symptoms appear

The army have been drafted in to help with the medical effort, including some 14,000 hazmat suits delivered over the weekend and two makeshift hospitals being built from scratch with 1,000 beds each.

The authorities have instructed four construction companies to toil through the Chinese New Year holiday in order to complete one of the facilities named the Huoshenshan or Fire God Mountain Hospital.

The medical medical centre in Caidian District in a week. It is expected to receive its first patients on February 3, according to state media.

China is building at least four coronavirus hospitals in a desperate bid to curb the spread of the life-threatening disease. Two of the urgent projects are in Wuhan, one in nearby Huanggang city and one in Zhenzhou in central China’s Henan Province. 

The second hospital in Wuhan, named the Leishanshan or Thunder God Mountain Hospital, is situated in Jiangxia District, a suburban area to the south of the city centre. 

Construction started on Saturday and the hospital is set to have two buildings containing a total of 1,500 beds, according to Xinhua News Agency. Around 2,000 medical workers are expected to treat patients in the special 7.4-acre centre, it is reported.

The woman shows how the subway station is completely empty, even without a single member of staff

While filming she says she has never seen all the rental bikes lined up so neatly and so many of them in one place 

The names of both hospitals in Wuhan are inspired by the Chinese mythology. 

The first facility is named the Fire God Mountain Hospital because according to legend, fire can counteract gold, which is one of the five elements in traditional Chinese medicine that represents a person’s lungs – indicating the coronavirus which mainly infects one’s respiratory system. 

The second institution is named the Thunder God Mountain Hospital because Chinese people believe the God of Thunder is the God who punishes the God of Evil, signifying that the locals hope the ‘evil’ coronavirus can be subdued as soon as possible.  

The Chinese city ravaged by a deadly new virus has vowed to build a special, 1,000-bed hospital in less than a week to fight an outbreak that has left at least 81 people dead in the country. In the picture above, mechanical equipment are seen working on the construction site of the coronavirus hospital in the Caidian District in the western suburb of Wuhan, China, on January 24

Two of the urgent projects are in Wuhan, one in nearby Huanggang and one in Zhenzhou in central China’s Henan Province

China has expanded sweeping efforts to contain the viral disease by extending the Lunar New Year holiday to keep the public at home and avoid spreading infection as the death toll doubled over the weekend to 81.

Hong Kong announced it would bar entry to visitors from the province at the centre of the outbreak following a warning the virus’s ability to spread was growing. Travel agencies were ordered to cancel group tours nationwide, adding to the rising economic cost.

Increasingly drastic anti-disease efforts began with the January 22 suspension of plane, train and bus links to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in central China where the virus was first detected last month. That lockdown has expanded to a total of 17 cities with more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease-control measures ever imposed.

Members of a military medical team head for Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei province on Monday

China has expanded sweeping efforts to contain the viral disease by extending the Lunar New Year holiday to keep the public at home and avoid spreading infection as the death toll doubled over the weekend to 81. In the picture above, a digger works on the construction site of the Leishenshan Hospital in Jiangxia District on the southern outskirts of Wuhan on January 26 

The end of the Lunar New Year holiday, China’s busiest travel season, was pushed back to Sunday from Thursday to ‘reduce mass gatherings’ and ‘block the spread of the epidemic,’ a Cabinet statement said.

The government of Shanghai, a metropolis of 25 million people and a global business center, extended the holiday by an additional week within the city to Feb. 9. It ordered sports stadiums and religious events closed.

Tens of millions of people had been due to crowd into planes, trains and buses to return to work after visiting their hometowns or tourist sites for the holiday. Schools will postpone reopening until further notice, the Cabinet said.

The spread of the illness is being watched around the globe, with a small number of cases appearing in several other countries.

South Korea confirmed its fourth case Monday. Scattered cases also have been confirmed in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, the U.S., Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France, Canada and Australia.

Paramedics wait for a patient outside an apartment block in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province on Sunday

Paramedics walk with workers at a community health station in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province

The U.S. has confirmed cases in Washington state, Chicago, southern California and Arizona.

China also reported five cases in Hong Kong and two in Macao.

Also Monday, China’s No. 2 leader, Premier Li Keqiang, visited Wuhan to ‘guide epidemic prevention work,’ the Cabinet website said. Photos on the site showed Li, in a blue smock and green face mask, meeting hospital employees.

Later, the premier, wearing a face mask and a dark windbreaker, visited a supermarket. Shoppers, also wearing masks, cheered to him, ‘Happy New Year!’

‘To get the epidemic under control in Wuhan and the good health of people in Wuhan will be good news for the whole country,’ Li told the crowd. ‘We wish the people of Wuhan a safe, healthy and long life. Let’s go, Wuhan!’


Someone who is infected with the Wuhan coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.

Eighty-one people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 2,800 have been infected in at least 12 countries. But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be 100,000, or even as high as 350,000 in Wuhan alone, as they warn it may kill as many as two in 100 cases.  Here’s what we know so far:

What is the Wuhan coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. It is an RNA virus (RNA is a type of genetic material called ribonucleic acid), which means it breaks into cells inside the host of the virus and uses them to reproduce itself.

This coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It is currently named 2019-nCoV, and does not have a more detailed name because so little is known about it.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started seeing cases on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 4,500.

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died. 

By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.

Where does the virus come from?

Nobody knows for sure. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of the virus in Wuhan came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in the city, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat.

Bats are a prime suspect – researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences said in a recent statement: ‘The Wuhan coronavirus’ natural host could be bats… but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate.’

And another scientific journal article has suggested the virus first infected snakes, which may then have transmitted it to people at the market in Wuhan.

Peking University researchers analysed the genes of the coronavirus and said they most closely matched viruses which are known to affect snakes. They said: ‘Results derived from our evolutionary analysis suggest for the first time that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the 2019-nCoV,’ in the Journal of Medical Virology.

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs.  

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. 

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.

There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the virus it may take between two and 14 days for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients – at least 97 per cent, based on available data – will recover from these without any issues or medical help.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, yesterday said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has so far killed 81 people out of a total of at least 2,800 officially confirmed cases – a death rate of around three per cent. This is a higher death rate than the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

However, experts say the true number of patients is likely considerably higher and therefore the death rate considerably lower. Imperial College London researchers estimate that there were 4,000 (up to 9,700) cases in Wuhan city alone up to January 18 – officially there were only 444 there to date. If cases are in fact 100 times more common than the official figures, the virus may be far less dangerous than currently believed.

Experts say it is likely only the most seriously ill patients are seeking help and are therefore recorded – the vast majority will have only mild, cold-like symptoms. For those whose conditions do become more severe, there is a risk of developing pneumonia which can destroy the lungs and kill you.  

Can the virus be cured? 

The Wuhan coronavirus cannot currently be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak has not officially been confirmed as either an epidemic or a pandemic yet. This is likely because, despite the global concern, the number of people who have been confirmed to be infected is still relatively low.

A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.

An epidemic is when a disease takes hold of a smaller community, such as a single country, region or continent.  

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