Norfolk-born man trapped in China coronavirus crisis
PUBLISHED: 16:16 30 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:14 04 February 2020
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A Norfolk-born man studying in China has spoke of his fear of living in the shadows of the coronavirus amid rising death tolls.
The man, who we are calling Luca, who was born in Norwich and grew up in Great Yarmouth, has been living in the city of Xian - which has a population of 12 million - for the last year.
He moved to the country to study Chinese and has been in lockdown in his apartment for the past week.
The student, who spoke to this newspaper anonymously due to a fear of being arrested for speaking out about the situation in Xian, said: "After the first few cases, we weren't sure how serious it was. Then the news started to come through that there had been deaths, it was a brand new virus and there was no known cure. This filled us with fear and uncertainty.
"The majority of major cities have all had a lot of avenues in and out cut off. Highways have been blocked off from smaller towns to prevent access to the major cities."
The virus appears to have originated from a Wuhan seafood market where wild animals, including marmots, birds, rabbits, bats and snakes, are traded illegally. However, the exact source of the outbreak has not been identified.
Chinese health authorities said there were 7,711 confirmed cases in the country as of January 29.
Infections have also spread to at least 15 other countries, with the UK having no confirmed cases.
Luca said: "Private taxis have been cut off and if you hail one you have to show them to your passport or ID card and give the driver your phone number. "They do this so they have your identity in case any other infected have been in the car. The drivers also have to disinfect their cars at least twice a day.
"Some buses and subways are still running, but they've slashed the hours down and a lot of bus services have been cancelled, as well as some subway stations being closed down."
New year celebrations were scaled back and four major cities Beijing, Shanghai, Xian and Tianjin.
"Xian at the moment is pretty much like a ghost town," he said, "It's normally a place with a lot of people, lots of activity, but now the streets are pretty much empty.
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"All the shops and restaurants are closed except the supermarkets, so there's nowhere to go and nothing to do.
"It's been really boring, this is currently a Chinese national holiday for the Chinese New Year, but there's nowhere open and nowhere to go.
"I haven't seen any of my friends for a week, now. I just can't wait for it to be over."
The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has risen to 170, and a confirmed case in Tibet means it has reached every region in mainland China.
"People are pretty worried about it over here. As of now there's still so many unknown qualities to it, we don't know how it might mutate.
"It's already infected thousands, I would recommend that nobody take it lightly."
Voluntary evacuations of people in Wuhan are under way to help people who want to leave the closed-off city and return to their countries.
The UK, Australia, South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand are expected to quarantine all evacuees for two weeks to monitor them for symptoms and avoid further spread of the virus.
Luca said: "I personally haven't heard anything from the UK authorities, though I hear they're planning on emergency transport for any UK residents wishing to leave Wuhan, the city the infection originated.
"I think the Chinese government have been very open about it, they've realise the severity of the virus and instead of trying to cover it up.
"I think they've realised this is a situation that can't be sugar coated and that everybody needs to be aware of what's happening.
"I hear they're optimistic that this will be over by February."
- Have you been affected by the coronavirus? You can share your experience by emailing Abigail.Nicholson@archant.co.uk