Hong Kong CNN  — 

It has been three weeks since Wu Chen went into self-enforced quarantine in his Wuhan apartment, with only his cat, Baozi, for company.

He checks his own temperature twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, and cleans his apartment diligently to minimize the risk of catching the deadly coronavirus, which has now killed at least 780 people across Hubei province in central China.

Wu is one of millions of people who are all but confined to their homes in Wuhan and several other Chinese cities as authorities enforce an unprecedented lockdown that shows no sign of ending.

Since January 13, the 26-year-old graphic designer has only ventured outside his flat a few times, to stock up on supplies of food and protective face masks – and to collect food for his cat.

“My friend said he could spare me some for free, so I drove over there to get cat food and masks. On the way, I barely saw any people on the streets. It is like this across the whole of Wuhan City,” he said.

Since Wu shut himself off to the outside world, the numbers of infections and deaths across Hubei province has skyrocketed.

When the official Wuhan quarantine period was announced on January 23, fewer than 1,000 people had been infected by the highly contagious virus in mainland China. Now, there are more than 37,000 confirmed cases.

The lockdown was an unprecedented move in disaster response for China, which refrained from such drastic measures during the SARS epidemic of 2003.

Tens of millions of people are now unable to leave the city and the surrounding area, with checkpoints set up on roads, flights canceled and military police blocking train stations despite the suspension of train services.

Videos and photos from inside the quarantine zone in Wuhan have shown hospitals overflowing with desperate people and empty supermarket shelves as supplies run thin in the city.

But Wu, and several other local residents CNN spoke to, said they trusted the local authorities to get the virus under control. “I don’t really have any real difficulties in daily life right now, except for that I’m extremely bored,” he said.

A new father in Wuhan

On January 5, Justin Steece’s wife, Li Ling, gave birth to their first son, Colm, at a Wuhan hospital.

Now the American teacher is desperately trying to find a way to get his family out of the city and back to the United States. The US consulate in Wuhan has already evacuated all of its staff.

Four evacuation flights left Wuhan for the US this week carrying US citizens who were considered most at risk of contracting the virus. No more evacuation flights are expected to be scheduled, a State Department official said Tuesday.

Steece was trying get his son and wife on board an evacuation flight, but had difficulties getting the right paperwork.

“The issue is the fact I need to register him as a US citizen but I couldn’t do (that) because of the lockdown,” he told CNN from his Wuhan apartment. “I couldn’t get everything taken care of in time.”

He said he’s working with US authorities to find a way out.

Until the family’s route out is confirmed, Steece is taking every precaution to avoid contamination.

When he goes out to get groceries, he wears a face mask over his nose and mouth and sunglasses to protect his eyes. He also puts on an extra layer of clothing, which is then washed once he gets back home.

Any shopping bags he uses are carefully wiped down with soap.

At the supermarket, there is a small selection of food – fresh produce is a rare find. “Our current area is out of the large majority of vegetables, but at least we do get new supplies occasionally,” he said. Other areas of the city are worse, he added.

Community spirit

As the quarantine continues, residents are coming together to share resources or send small groups out on shopping trips for multiple families, to limit the chance of infection.

In the small riverside town of Sandouping, in Hubei province, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Wuhan, PhD researcher Ping Huang said his family recently distributed about 750 kilograms (1,653 pounds) of vegetables to frontline workers such as police and doctors.

“My family runs a small hotel here … We have more than enough food stocked for tourists that were supposed to be visiting this area during (Lunar New Year),” he said.

A banner in the Hubei town of Sandouping which reads, "If (you) have fever and links to Wuhan, wear a mask and see a doctor."

A student at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, Ping had returned home to be with his family for the Lunar New Year holiday. But on the morning of January 24, the local government began shutting down public transport.

The next day, no one could leave Sandouping. Ping said, despite being stuck staying with his family for two weeks, he is more bored than worried about the situation. Still, he asked CNN to not use his real name for fear of potential repercussions from the government for speaking publicly about the coronavirus.

“(When someone in my area was infected) the Center for Disease Control was involved in a timely manner, young people from that house were quarantined in their homes and senior citizens were taken to hospital,” he said.

“Instead of being critical and outrageous, I think it is more sensible to recognize that almost everyone has been doing whatever they can do to make things better, including local authorities.”

A road block set up by police vehicles on a street in Sandouping.

Killing time

As families all over Wuhan – a city of 11 million people – wait for the lockdown to lift, Chinese social media has been flooded with videos of citizens entertaining themselves by square dancing in their living rooms, or re-enacting Chinese operas.

Wuhan resident Wu has joined in, posting daily videos to TikTok of life under quarantine. In one of his videos, Wu plays hide and seek with his cat.

When not on camera, Wu said he does push ups, watches TV and practices his handwriting to pass the time.

“I wish the government had taken control of the situation earlier. If that were the case, maybe the epidemic wouldn’t have lasted this long,” he said. “But I trust the doctors, the nurses and the scientists. I believe the epidemic will pass.”