Coronavirus chaos as 300,000 people travelled out of Wuhan on trains in just one day before lockdown

THE lockdown of transport links in Wuhan - the epicentre of the coronavirus - reportedly sparked a mass exodus out of the city the day before.

On Thursday, desperate authorities banned all movement to and from the Chinese city, which has a population of 11million, as the country struggles to deal with the bug which has killed at least 25 people.

 Locals at Wuhan train station on January 23 - the day before the city was placed on locked down because of the coronavirus
Locals at Wuhan train station on January 23 - the day before the city was placed on locked down because of the coronavirusCredit: AFP or licensors

But according to the Washington Post, Wuhan Railway deleted a social media post that said 300,000 people left the city on Wednesday ahead of the travel ban.

As distrust with the government mounts, there are suspicions that such official posts have been deleted to shield the public from the true extent of the outbreak.

And fears are mounting that millions more Wuhan residents could have fled "ground zero" before the city was locked down, spreading to all corners of the world's most populous country.

China is celebrating Lunar New Year this Saturday – a holiday which has been called the “world’s largest migration” with billions of trips normally expected.

Wuhan suddenly announced its travel ban at 2.30am local time this morning while most of its residents were asleep.

This has been interpreted by some as a sign of panic by the city’s health authorities.

REFUSING TO TEST PATIENTS

There are also damning stories from Wuhan of medics in recent weeks failing to test patients who were clearly showing signs of the illness.

Kyle Hui told the New York Times that despite his stepmother having the correct symptoms, including a cough and a fever, doctors wearing hazmat suits refused to test her for the virus.

He said she died on January 15 and that her death certificate says "severe pneumonia" rather than coronavirus.

And while she has not been recorded as one of the official victims of the bug, Mr Hui claims doctors told him to cremate his stepmother's body because they suspected she had the disease.

 Officials checks the body temperature of drivers at a toll gate in Wuhan
Officials checks the body temperature of drivers at a toll gate in WuhanCredit: EPA
 Passengers, most wearing masks, arrive to board trains ahead of Chinese New Year at a Beijing railway station
Passengers, most wearing masks, arrive to board trains ahead of Chinese New Year at a Beijing railway stationCredit: Getty Images - Getty

PANIC BUYING

Officials in Wuhan have told locals to stay indoors and have ordered them to wear face masks when outside.

However, the People’s Daily – the government’s propaganda outlet – posted on social media that the province was running low on masks and other protective clothing.

That online post was also eventually deleted.

Wuhan residents have also posted pictures online showing empty supermarket shelves - in another sign the city was unprepared for the panic buying such an outbreak would inevitably cause.

'DERELICTION OF DUTY'

At least 25 people have died from the virus in China while confirmed cases have skyrocketed to over 800 in the country, officials said.

Guan Yi, a Hong Kong–based infectious disease expert, believes a “bigger” outbreak is certain while accusing officials in mainland China of a “dereliction of duty.”

The expert, who helped identify another coronavirus named SARS in 2003, says “we have passed through the ‘golden period’ for prevention and control.”

He told Caixin: “What’s more, we’ve got the holiday traffic rush and a dereliction of duty from certain officials.”

TEN TIMES WORSE THAN SARS

Dr Yi said the current outbreak could be 10 times worse than the SARS crisis.

He said: "I have experienced so much and never felt scared. Most (viruses) are controllable, but this time I am scared."

The expert claims he had to "escape" Wuhan yesterday after witnessing the "jaw-dropping" lack of preventative measures enforced by local officials.

BAN ON PUBLIC GATHERINGS

Now several major cities, including the capital Beijing, have followed Wuhan in banning public gathering during the New Year celebrations.

This is another sign that China is expanding its efforts to contain the virus which started last month – but is it too little too late?

Many residents in Wuhan think so.

Social media users in the city have blasted authorities on Weibo for waiting weeks to put the metropolis on lockdown.

Xiao, 26, a primary school teacher in Wuhan, told The Guardian: "When I saw the news when I woke up, I felt like I was going to go crazy. This is a little too late now. The government’s measures are not enough."

Others criticised local authorities on the social media platform Weibo as #PrayforWuhan was trending.

SOCIAL MEDIA BACKLASH

One said: "It’s been a month since the first case was discovered and only now do they think of closing the city? This Wuhan emergency response is a little slow, right???"

Another added: "The government needs to address this. If things become too expensive, people will definitely panic and when people feel unsafe, terrible things happen. Right now people are fighting over supplies, soon they may just be fighting.”

Locals have shared images of their stockpiles of instant noodles and snacks on the social media platform Weibo.

One wrote: "No more going out ... so I won’t get sick. Hope Wuhan can get some support soon."

It is unusual of citizens to express such outrage at the Chinese government on the country's microblogging site.

 Wuhan residents wearing masks as they stockpile on food amid the virus outbreak
Wuhan residents wearing masks as they stockpile on food amid the virus outbreakCredit: Getty Images - Getty
 This image shows the roadblocks that have been put in place in Wuhan to stop people from leaving the city where the virus outbreak is believed to have started
This image shows the roadblocks that have been put in place in Wuhan to stop people from leaving the city where the virus outbreak is believed to have startedCredit: Twitter
 Medical staff tending to a patient at the The Central Hospital Of Wuhan
Medical staff tending to a patient at the The Central Hospital Of WuhanCredit: Reuters
 The new strain of coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, causes symptoms that may start as a cold and eventually end up developing into pneumonia
The new strain of coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, causes symptoms that may start as a cold and eventually end up developing into pneumonia

Supermarket shelves are empty as residents have started stockpiling goods to keep themselves isolated at home to avoid contracting the virus.

Images shared online show food prices have spiked in Wuhan.

Cake Liu left Wuhan last week after visiting her boyfriend there and said everything was normal then, things have changed rapidly.

She said: "(My boyfriend) didn't sleep much yesterday. He disinfected his house and stocked up on instant noodles. He's not really going out. If he does he wears a mask."

Police, SWAT teams and paramilitary troops have been out on the streets patrolling the railway stations as authorities have banned travelling on subways and ferries.

CITY ON LOCKDOWN

The airport and train stations have been shut down to outgoing passengers travelling after 10am local time.

Petrol stations have been rammed with motorists trying to get as much fuel as possible amid rumours reserves had run out.

Pharmacies have sold out of face masks, residents said.

An Irish teacher in Wuhan has describe the city as a "ghost town" as he's been hold up in his flat.

Ben Kavanagh told RTE Radio’s Morning Ireland: “You are allowed out, but there are so many rumours and people are worried, it’s better not to.

“It’s almost like a ghost town.

I have enough water for a few more days, but I will probably have to head out to the shops for food.

“I have no idea what to expect."

Seven million people in Huanggang, which is 45 miles away, have been told not to leave after there were confirmed cases.

Public transport stopped running at midnight local time.

Dr W. Ian Lipkin, a US epidemiologist at Columbia University who advised China and the World Health Organisation during the SARS epidemic, said infected victims outside Wuhan would continue to spread the disease.

He said: “The horse is already out of the barn."

Coronavirus is an airborne virus, spread in a similar way to colds and the flu.

The virus attacks the respiratory system, causing lung lesions.

Symptoms include a runny nose, headache, cough and fever, shortness of breath, chills and body aches.

It is incredibly contagious and is spread through contact with anything the virus is on as well as infected breath, coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include a runny nose, headache, cough and fever, shortness of breath, chills and body aches.

In most cases, you won't know whether you have a coronavirus or a different cold-causing virus, such as rhinovirus.

But if a coronavirus infection spreads to the lower respiratory tract (your windpipe and your lungs), it can cause pneumonia, especially in older people, people with heart disease or people with weakened immune systems.

There is no vaccine for coronavirus.

In 2003 an outbreak of a similar virus, SARS, infected more than 8,000 people in 37 countries before it was brought under control, killing 800 of those worldwide.

 There are three direct flights a week from Wuhan in China to Heathrow Airport, landing at around 6pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday
There are three direct flights a week from Wuhan in China to Heathrow Airport, landing at around 6pm on Monday, Wednesday and FridayCredit: EPA
 A picture posted on social media appears to show a patient being covered to prevent infecting others
A picture posted on social media appears to show a patient being covered to prevent infecting othersCredit: Instagram

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