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Face masks, fear and boredom: Life in China under virus threat

A man wears a face mask in Wuhan, China, on January 28, 2020.
A man wears a face mask in Wuhan, China, on January 28, 2020. © AFP / FRANCE 24

Whether lining up to buy face masks, blockading villages or finding ways to stave off boredom amid a city in lockdown, the outbreak of a new and deadly virus has brought disruption to the daily lives of people across China.

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In Wuhan, the city where the previously unknown form of coronavirus first appeared, the streets are deserted. Placed under lockdown by the central government since January 23, with citizens forbidden to leave without special permission, many are choosing to remain indoors to minimize risk of infection.

“A lot of residents are a little nervous,” one local told AFP. “There used to be a lot of people on the streets, many people, but now there are few.”

At the Marco Polo Hotel, one of the few still open, staff have been taking part in daily physical exercise routines.

With no guests to take care of, they see it as a way to both maintain their physical and mental health.

In other major cities, including Beijing, the streets have also been unusually quiet in recent days.

Meanwhile, outside pharmacies, people have been forming lines for surgical face masks.

Some villages have gone to even greater extremes in an attempt to keep the virus at bay by constructing road blocks and screening anyone attempting to enter.

“It’s just to prevent the virus from being spread to our village,” a security volunteer in the village of Tianjiaying, near Beijing, told Reuters. “And then inside our village, we decided to block every entrance. All outsiders are not allowed to come in.”

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