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AFP
January 26, 2020

‘Nobody can leave’: trapped Wuhan residents stock up

World

AFP
January 26, 2020

WUHAN, China: Police at a roadblock on the outskirts of Wuhan turned away cars trying to leave the virus-stricken city on Saturday, as other anxious residents trapped inside spent the Lunar New Year stocking up on masks and medical supplies or in long hospital queues.

Authorities have prevented anyone from leaving Wuhan, the city of 11 million people at the heart of the viral outbreak which has so far infected nearly 1,300 people and killed 41 others.

AFP saw a steady trickle of cars approaching the roadblocks around 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of the city centre on Saturday morning, only for police in fluorescent jackets wearing masks to tell them to turn around.

The barricade, at one of the tolls for highways exiting the city, was blocked with red and yellow plastic barriers and cones. "Nobody can leave," a policeman told AFP. A stray dog ran across the empty road in front of the roadblocks, which were shrouded in grey fog and drizzle.

AFP journalists only saw two vehicles allowed to pass the roadblock, including a white van which an officer said was "buying medicines" and would later return to the city. Authorities extended transport bans to 17 other cities around Wuhan in a gargantuan effort to control the SARS-like virus, restricting travel for at least 56 million in Hubei province.

While there are restrictions on anyone leaving Wuhan, a few people were allowed to enter the city through the barricade, such as desperately needed medical workers whose holidays were cut short to help overwhelmed hospitals.