'It’s pretty scary': Aussie student stuck in Wuhan describes coronavirus ghost town

·News Editor
·4-min read

A Chinese student studying in Australia has described being locked down in the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus after visiting family in Wuhan.

The city, with a population of 11 million people, is where the virus is believed to have first infected a human in an illegal wildlife market.

Wuhan has all but been put under quarantine, with a lockdown on transport and a ban on gatherings.

Chinese student Helen Chen, who has been studying in Canberra, has described the eerie scenes in the city which has become a “ghost town”.

“There is literally no one outside. It’s pretty scary,” she said in a video which she took in her family’s home and was later published by Reuters.

“The last time I went out was probably like a week ago,” she said.

“I wore a mask, and everyone else, like most people, were wearing a mask.”

Medical professionals in protective gear help a patient in Wuhan. Source: AP
Medical professionals in protective gear help a patient in Wuhan. Source: AP

She lamented that the ruling Chinese Communist Party in the city “isn’t the best with transparency”.

“So we’re not really sure if they are reporting the truth or if they are under reporting the actual numbers,” she said.

“I think it’s just not knowing what is actually going on and how long it’s going to last – that’s the most scary part.”

Ms Chen said she is keeping busy by doing her university assignments while her father passes the day by watching the Australian Open on TV, and her mum watches shows on her phone.

In a lengthy Facebook post on Tuesday, she described how the city was functioning.

“Most smaller neighbourhood supermarkets are closed, but bigger designated supermarkets are open and apparently the govt is making sure they get multiple deliveries every day and prices are kept as per normal,” she wrote. “So for now, food shortages isn’t a concern. At least for families like mine.”

In the video-diary, she referred to seemingly racist comments she’d seen on social media, saying sometimes situations like this bring out the worst in people. In an earlier post, she alluded to comments from people online laying the blame on Chinese people for a disregard of health and safety concerns.

“But there are good people around. A lot of people are donating food ... and volunteering to drive doctors and nurses around,” she said.

She again emphasised the good deeds of her fellow countrymen and women on social media as she thanked people for their well wishes.

“Sometimes we forget that there are just wonderful people out there who are willing to put themselves at risk of infection, and possibly even death, to help others.”

Helen Chen speaking on the video and [right] having lunch
Ms Chen has been studying at the ANU, according to her social media account. Source: Facebook

Hundreds of Aussies to be evacuated from Wuhan

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a plan on Wednesday to evacuate Australians from Wuhan, saying Christmas Island will be set up as a quarantine zone where the evacuated Australians will remain for at least 14 days.

Australia's national security committee kicked the plan into gear on Wednesday but approval from Chinese authorities is required before it proceeds.

Qantas has offered its aircraft for the operation, which is jointly occurring with New Zealand.

Mr Morrison was unable to say how many Australians would be evacuated but said "isolated and vulnerable" people such as the elderly and babies would be helped first.

According to the government, the number of Australians in the area is more than thought earlier, with more than 600 Australian citizens in Wuhan having registered for advice or assistance.

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