China’s unprecedented quarantine of 11 million people in Wuhan is 3 weeks old. Here’s what it’s like in the isolated city.

From left, a worker setting up beds at a stadium to convert it into a makeshift hospital, a man disinfecting a woman arriving at a hotel for isolated people, and a still from a video of a woman going outside in an inflatable costume — all in Wuhan, China.

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From left, a worker setting up beds at a stadium to convert it into a makeshift hospital, a man disinfecting a woman arriving at a hotel for isolated people, and a still from a video of a woman going outside in an inflatable costume — all in Wuhan, China.
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China Daily via REUTERS/ Feature China/Barcroft Media/Getty Images/Twitter/Manya Koetse/Weibo/Business Insider
  • The 11 million residents of Wuhan, China, have been under lockdown for the past three weeks because of the deadly coronavirus.
  • The residents are worried about having enough food, getting the virus from other people in the city, and staying entertained as they largely choose to stay in their homes.
  • The city is shipping in food and building hospitals in days, while residents are making memes as they wait for things to return to normal.
  • This is what life in the city is like under quarantine, as China enforces increasingly strict measures.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Chinese city of Wuhan has been under lockdown for three weeks after it was identified as the center of a deadly coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 1,500 people.

Photos show how the typically bustling city of 11 million people now appears to be a ghost town, as people shout support from their balconies and run in their apartments as they wait for word on when the spread of the virus might slow, or their quarantine might be lifted.

People are allowed outside, but many are choosing to stay indoors. Those who go outside are faced with screenings and disinfectant sprayings.

A teenager with cerebral palsy died after his dad was quarantined, while thousands of pets are at risk of starvation in empty homes. Residents are trying to challenge Chinese law and spread news about the virus, while healthcare professionals are going to extreme measures to try and stop others from getting infected.

China is bringing in stricter measures and ordering all the city’s residents to report their temperatures every day, while public venues have been transformed into makeshift medical centers and the city has built new hospitals in just days.

Here’s what the city is like:


The city of Wuhan, China, was placed under lockdown on January 23, leaving about 11 million people quarantined in the center of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Chinese soldiers blocking the entrance to the central Hankou Station in Wuhan, China.
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The Paper/Twitter

China cut off transport links inside and outside the city and ordered places like cinemas and cafes to close.

The World Health Organization said that cutting off a city as large as Wuhan was “unprecedented in public health history” and that it wasn’t sure the strategy would work.

China later extended the measures to other cities, covering about 60 million people, creating what is thought to be the largest quarantine in history.


People stockpiled food and fuel, worried that supplies would run out with the city cut off.

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Wuhan residents wearing masks buy groceries on January 23.
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Getty Images

Authorities urged people not to stockpile, as some stores ran out of meat, vegetables, and instant noodles.


But fleets of trucks have brought food to the city under orders from the government, which has vowed not to let prices increase. Drivers’ temperatures are checked, and their trucks are sprayed with disinfectant.

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Trucks lined up to bring food into Wuhan in January.
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Twitter/Chinese Embassy in Uganda

Some drivers said that they were unsure whether they would be paid but that they volunteered to help the city anyway.

One driver, Ma Chenglong, said he volunteered straight away.

“When the country is in trouble, we common people have a duty,” the driver told The New York Times.


And medical supplies have been consistently arriving in the city.

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A medical-materials warehouse in Wuhan on February 4.
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Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

But because of the travel restrictions and fears that the virus can spread from person to person, the streets are largely deserted.

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Drone footage shows a person crossing an empty highway in Wuhan on February 3.
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Getty Images

Drone footage of the city taken this month showed an eerie stillness across the city.


Satellite photos also reveal just how empty the streets are.

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Two satellite images show the difference in traffic on the Yingwuzhou Yangtze River Bridge in Wuhan on January 12, before the quarantine, and January 28.
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Planet Labs Inc / Handout / Reuters

The photos, taken on the eighth day of the city’s quarantine, showed the city looking like a ghost town.


Some people have ventured outside — many to buy supplies. Decorations for the Lunar New Year served as a reminder of how the usually-huge holiday was celebrated much differently this year.

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A woman wears a protective mask while walking in Wuhan on February 3.
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Wuhan

Those who do go shopping are met with in-store announcements about how to stop the virus from spreading.

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A man wearing a mask buying groceries in the city on January 23.
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Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images/Business Insider


People have largely been staying in their homes. Video footage showed people yelling supportive phrases out of their apartments, like “Wuhan, come on!”

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A screenshot of a video of Wuhan residents shouting support for one another.
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Reddit/Mind_Singularity

The footage, shared on Reddit, showed dozens of residents shouting their support of the city:

Wuhan People shouting “fI ¹” (Wuhan come on!) out of their windowsto give each other strength. from r/Wuhan


State media has reported that people are running around their apartments — in circles around beds, or in their living rooms.

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An aerial view of Wuhan on February 3.
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Getty

One man ran about 62 miles in his living room. People have also been sharing their progress on social media.

Source: CNN


This boredom has inevitably turned into joke- and meme-creation.

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A still from a Weibo video of a Wuhan resident going outside in an inflatable Christmas tree costume.
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Twitter/Manya Koetse/Weibo/What's on Weibo

Some people have poked fun at the lack of protective masks by doing things like wearing inflatable costumes outside:


Many are also turning to delivery drivers, who are bringing food and goods ordered online to people still at home, and are even checking residents' temperatures.

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This photo of a food delivery worker in Shanghai shows just how overloaded some delivery drivers are getting.
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Zhu Weihui/The Paper (Pengpai News)

But the people placing the orders are treating them with suspicion, keeping their distance and spraying their packages.

Source: The Wall Street Journal


But even as people seek to find ways to stay connected, some have slipped through the cracks. A teenager with cerebral palsy died after he was left alone for six days as his father was quarantined.

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Wuhan, China, in April 2018.
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AFP via Getty Images

The South China Morning Post reported, citing the Beijing Youth Daily, that Yan Cheng was found dead on January 29.

His father had appealed for help on social media, writing: "I have two disabled sons. My older son Yan Cheng has cerebral palsy. He cannot move his body, he cannot speak or look after himself. He has already been at home by himself for six days, with nobody to bathe him or change his clothes and nothing to eat or drink."

Two local officials were fired, and an investigation into the death is underway.


People who are found to need treatment are now being forced into quarantine, with one top Chinese official describing the country as being under "wartime conditions."

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A worker setting up beds at Hongshan Arena in Wuhan to convert it into a makeshift hospital.
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China Daily via REUTERS

Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan visited Wuhan on Thursday, saying that anyone who needed treatment should be rounded up and forced into quarantine.


And as many as 50,000 pets are thought to have been trapped as their owners are quarantined or unable to return to the city. Volunteers have broken into homes to save animals at the request of their owners, but they are overwhelmed.

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Medical staff members set up beds in Wuhan on February 5.
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STR/AFP/Getty Images

Source: Reuters


Some people still with their pets are also putting them in masks before going outside, though there's no evidence pets can catch the coronavirus.

Images of cats and dogs wearing the protective gear have spread on social media.


China has ordered the city's 11 million residents to report their body temperatures every day.

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A man's temperature is checked.
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Stringer/Getty Images

People have found themselves facing screenings as they go about their daily lives.


Speaking out about the virus can lead to trouble in the city. Some outspoken citizens and bloggers have disappeared in recent weeks.

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Chen Qiushi, a Chinese lawyer and citizen journalist, went viral on YouTube and Twitter for reporting on the Wuhan coronavirus from the epicenter of the outbreak.
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Screenshot YouTube/Chen Qiushi

Chen Qiushi, 34-year-old Chinese lawyer and citizen journalist, has gone missing after his video reports from Wuhan about coronavirus went viral.

Others are trying to tell their stories online from Wuhan, in a huge challenge to the state.

Some people in Wuhan, including academics, are also calling for freedom of speech protections, challenging established Chinese politics.

Some local officials have also been replaced in an apparent effort to stem public anger.


While there is no cure for the virus, some people in Wuhan have tried to get their hands on HIV medication after it was suggested as a potential treatment.

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An exhibition center converted into a hospital in Wuhan.
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STR/AFP/Getty Images

Medics around the world are holding clinical trials to test whether HIV medication could work as a treatment.


The streets and the insides of buildings have been sprayed with disinfectant.

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Cleaners wash a street in Wuhan with a high-pressure water gun on February 3.
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Getty Images

China is using trucks to spray cities, including Wuhan.


Some people have been kept isolated in hotels, where food is delivered to them.

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Workers give meals to occupants in a hotel accommodating isolated people in Wuhan on February 3.
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Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

People are disinfected before entering the hotels.

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A man disinfects a woman arriving at a hotel in Wuhan on February 3.
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Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Many international brands have closed their stores in Wuhan, and some have also done so in other parts of China.

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A person walking down an empty street in Wuhan.
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Getty Images

Source: Reuters


The city has turned public spaces like sports centers and exhibition halls into makeshift hospitals.

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Workers arranging beds in a 2,000-bed mobile hospital set up in an exhibition center in Wuhan.
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Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

At the venues, which have thousands of beds, workers can observe people who have mild symptoms and give emergency aid.


Other people have been brought in for treatment at new hospitals that were constructed in just days.

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Getty

But some people have gotten medical treatment outside or in their cars because they're scared of the number of sick people in the hospitals.

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Getty

New York Times journalist Amy Qin on Tuesday tweeted a photo showing people getting IV drips while sitting on the pavement or in their cars outside a hospital in Wuhan.

They said they didn't want to go inside the hospital because there were too many sick people, Qin said.


And it's taking seven days, on average, for Wuhan's patients to be admitted to the hospital after their symptoms start to show, researchers found.

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Medical staff rally before taking over a large temporary hospital built in an exhibition center in Wuhan on February 5, 2020.
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Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Researchers at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University did not outline why exactly it can take so long, but the delay could help the virus to spread.


Meanwhile medical workers are regularly sprayed with disinfectant.

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A doctor being disinfected by his colleague at a quarantine zone in Wuhan on January 3.
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STR/AFP via Getty Images

Those working to fight the virus are taking extra steps to treat the sick and to protect themselves. Chinese nurses going to Wuhan are shaving their heads to stop their hair from spreading the virus...

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Chinese nurses in Wuhan continue to display optimism after revealing their newly shaven heads.
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China Xinhua News/Twitter

Source: Business Insider


... while other medical professionals are getting support from their families. This video still shows a nurse who has quarantined from her family walking to work at 3 a.m while her husband drives behind her to illuminate her journey.

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The husband of a Wuhan nurse drives behind her, lighting her path as she walks to work in the early morning.
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CGTN

Wang Xiaoting is staying at a hotel and will not let her husband drive her to work in case she spreads the infection, the state-run CGTN news agency said.

She walks instead, and her husband drives behind her, according to CGTN.


But those working to fight the virus face the most risk. More than 1,700 health workers have been infected as of Friday, China said. Most are in Hubei province, the home of Wuhan.