'Can't open our doors': Aussies stranded in China share coronavirus lockdown experiences

Australians stranded in China due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis have shared their experiences as cities grind to a halt.

Daniel Ou Yang, who’s in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, wrote on Facebook on Australia Day he’s been isolated in his home for the past week and a half.

An offical from China told AFP the death toll from the virus had increased to 212 as of Friday, with more than 9000 cases being treated worldwide.

Mr Yang, from Sydney, said Wuhan “is a ghost town” with not a “single person outside”. It’s led to the cancellation of Chinese New Year plans too, he wrote.

“The situation however is pretty bad over here, and it’s worse than the government lets out,” he wrote.

“We are being advised to not even open our doors.”

Empty shelves seen in a Wuhan supermarket.
Daniel Ou Yang shares images from inside an empty Wuhan supermarket. Source: TikTok/ Daniel Ou Yang

However, Mr Yang added he’s grateful for the actions of the Chinese government in quarantining everyone.

He said China battled SARS in 2003 “and won and we will again”.

Mr Yang’s claims are backed by William Yang, a journalist for German publication Deutsche-Welle, who claims China is “hiding” the number of deaths from the virus.

‘My city has become a ghost town’

The Wuhan resident shared videos from his apartment in the city’s centre.

He said the area he lives in is similar to Sydney’s bustling inner city suburb of Haymarket or North Sydney.

“The city’s empty,” he says.

“The population’s 11 million people and I can only see maybe one or two people on the street.”

To put it into perspective, that’s more than twice Sydney’s population in 2018.

It’s also more than Sydney and Melbourne’s population combined.

Mr Yang also filmed the barren street outside his window. A parked car is seen but no pedestrians or moving traffic.

He says the streets are “normally full of people” with cars, pedestrians and bicycles.

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The man then points his attention to the light rail, which he claims isn’t running after all public transport was brought to a standstill.

A view from another window shows the city “completely empty”.

Video from his TikTok account also shows empty supermarket shelves and other empty streets around the city.

Daniel Chen, a Sydney man in Shanghai, wrote on Facebook “hospitals are full to the brim with patients who have flu and cold symptoms, which are also coronavirus symptoms”.

He added “do not trust any official reports from China” and “censorship is rampant”.

Mr Chen also shared video from inside a Shanghai supermarket.

“I haven’t seen one person not wear a mask,” he says.

He shared a photo from the passenger seat of a car. The streets in front of him, in broad daylight, resemble Wuhan’s with few people around and little traffic.

A view from a car shows empty streets in Shanghai during the coronavirus crisis.
Daniel Chen shares a view from a car in Shanghai. Source: Facebook/ Daniel Chen

Evacuees from China ‘forced to pay $1000’

The Australian Government is currently working to remove Australian citizens from Wuhan.

“Australian diplomatic and consular staff have been working very closely with the Chinese authorities”, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said in a statement.

“The Australian Embassy in Beijing is now seeking formal approval from the Chinese Government to send a plane to Wuhan to assist the departure of Australians from Hubei Province.

“We thank the Chinese Government for the cooperative way they have dealt with Australian counterparts and those of other countries who have citizens in Wuhan and Hubei province.

“Australians departing on any flight arranged by the Australian Government will be flown to Christmas Island to undertake a period of quarantine of up to 14 days based on current medical advice, as a condition of their assisted departure,” she said.

A photo of a mess hall at the North West Point Detention Centre on Christmas Island.
Australian evacuees from Wuhan will be have to stay at the detention centre on Christmas Island (pictured). Source: AA: (file pic)

Yahoo News Australia understands evacuees will have to pay up to $1000 each to get home.

Evacuees told the Sydney Morning Herald waivers will also need to be signed and once they leave Christmas Island they will be moved to Perth.

From Perth, they will have to pay their own way to get home, they told the paper.

A DFAT spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia it is “standard practice” for Australians to make a financial contribution when the government assists their departure from another country.

“This was the case for example in the assisted departure by air charter from Cairo during the Arab Spring in 2011, and the Lebanon conflict in 2006,” the spokesperson said.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has defended the plan of moving Australian citizens to Christmas Island, telling reporters on Thursday “I can't clear out a hospital in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane”.

“Christmas Island is purpose-built for exactly this scenario,” he said.

He added the government is yet to make a deal with China to remove Australian citizens but he believes “we’re looking at a pretty condensed time frame”.

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