For the millions of residents trapped in an unprecedented lockdown in Wuhan, the epicenter of China’s deadly coronavirus outbreak, life has not been easy – but some are trying to make the best of a bad situation.
The city of 11 million people in central China’s Hubei province has been in lockdown for almost one week as Chinese authorities struggle to contain the spread of the deadly new coronavirus that has killed at least 170 people and sickened more than 7,700
Flights, trains and buses leaving Wuhan have been canceled, highways out of the city blocked and all intra-city public transports suspended. On Sunday, the city even banned private vehicles from the roads to discourage people from moving around.
There is no doubting the severity of this outbreak, but amid the fear of contagion and anger at the government’s handling of the crisis, many residents are finding ways to amuse themselves within the confines of their homes.
“Things (Chinese people) are capable of doing in their living rooms” has become a hot topic on Weibo – China’s equivalent of Twitter, attracting 230 million views.
Videos show people coming up with all kinds of activities to kill time: playing ping pong on the dining table, playing badminton with a rope tied between the television and a closet, as well as people pretending to fish in fish tanks. “After the outbreak has ended, they’ll all become sports champions,” said one of the comments on Weibo.
Others are taking a more sedentary approach.”I’ve stayed at home for five days. Every day, apart from eating I’m sleeping. I slept so much that my back and my neck hurt,” said one man surnamed Zhang, who said he was a resident of Wuhan.
“Suddenly I understand why people walk their dogs every day, I also want to go out for a walk. Thank goodness my house is big enough,” he said.
His remedy is to bring “square dancing” – a ubiquitous daily routine of middle-aged and elderly women taking part in large, loud dance sessions in China’s urban spaces – indoors, into his own living room.
In the video, his family also joined him, joyfully dancing in colorful, cotton-padded pajamas.
CNN has been unable to verify many of the videos being shared on Weibo that purport to show life inside the lockdown zone. Some appear to show crowded hospitals, strained health care workers and gravely ill patients. Others show empty supermarkets shelves and empty streets. Still others show a lighter side of life as people attempt to achieve some normality in a very unusual situation.
Jokes about how Wuhan people can now make a great contribution to the country by simply doing nothing and lying on the couch are doing the rounds on social media.
There is also a viral video of a granny in Wuhan dumping bags of vegetables into her shopping cart while everyone else around her stood still to listen to Premier Li Keqiang giving a short speech at a local supermarket. The meme goes that no one can stop Wuhan grannies from getting their groceries, not even the Chinese premier.
Premier Li visited Wuhan on Monday to inspect the situation on the ground and placate the public amid growing criticism of the government’s handling of the disaster.
The same evening, residents could be heard shouting “Go, Wuhan!” and singing the national anthem from their high-rise buildings, according to cellphone video circulating online.
The scene echoes similar evening routines in Hong Kong, where protesters shouted “Go, Hong Kong!” and sang the protest anthem from their apartment windows during the city’s months long pro-democracy movement last year.
Not all Wuhan residents support the practice, however. There was a counter call online to boycott the plan, warning that it is too dangerous as droplets of bodily fluids carrying the coronavirus could be passed from one floor to another as people shouted over balconies.
Vlogging the lockdown
Some Wuhan residents are also chronicling their daily lives on video shared with the outside world.
Li Xiaolei, a radio DJ in the city, started vlogging his life the day after the lockdown began last Thursday. On Saturday, he filmed himself going grocery shopping with a woman he introduced as his neighbor.
From his car, the streets appeared almost empty and, inside the local shopping mall, restaurants were closed. Shoppers waited in a long queue outside the supermarket to get their temperature checked before being allowed to enter. Inside, the smell of disinfectant lingered in the air, Li said. Piles of meat packages lay in baskets, as supermarket staff were too busy to put them into the fridge, Li explained in the video.
“The overall atmosphere is quite tense – tense but also orderly,” Li said in the video.
On his drive home, Li reflected on the risk he and his neighbor took to shop in such a crowded place with his neighbor. The neighbor said there was no alternative because every supermarket would be equally crowded.
“Every time when (the government) announces a new measure, everyone doesn’t know what would come next, and every measure seems to lead to more inconvenience in life. That’s why every time when new announcements are made, people would rush to (supermarkets) to stock up,” Li said in the video.
When asked by his neighbor how he was feeling after days of living in lockdown, Li said he felt fine because he had been able to drive his own car. The ban on private vehicles came into force on Sunday, hours after Li uploaded his video. “Now that cars are no longer allowed, and there’s no public transport, I’m a bit flustered – what if there is an emergency?” Li said.
Another video filmed by Wuhan resident Lin Chen on Friday, the day after the lockdown was imposed, showed vacant central shopping streets, deserted underground car parks and empty roads.
“I know some shots look like scenes from a movie – completely empty streets, a city suddenly sealed off, but we all know that this is not a movie,” Lin said in the video.
A food delivery man Lin spoke to told him people were not ordering takeaway anymore – he had only received five orders that day, a fraction of the number on normal days.
“From my point of view, people in the city are still going about orderly. I see everyone using their own strength to keep the city functioning as normal. Everyone wants to do the right thing, to make things better,” Lin said at the end of the video.
“This is Wuhan at its fewest people, and among the most orderly times, I’ve seen in more than 10 years. Because no matter what, it is still home to 11 million people,” he added.
CNN’s Yuli Yang and Begona Blanco Munoz contributed to this story.