Observers

In Wuhan, the city identified as ground zero of the deadly coronavirus, authorities are doing what they can to contain the spread of the illness, including putting the city in lockdown.

The virus has infected over 800 people, and killed at least 26. China has imposed transport bans in an area that covers 41 million people – meaning that people cannot get in or out of quarantined Wuhan. As a result, many videos and photos of life inside the city where the virus is spreading are being shared online.

Station lockdown

Videos of police closing down one of the main train stations in Wuhan have been making the rounds on social media.

This video has been viewed over 88,000 times on Twitter.


In this video, police in green uniforms and black face masks stand guard outside the entrance to the station. We have verified that this video is at the Hankou railway station – the station signs behind the guards also appear in photographs taken by professional agency photographers from the Associated Press and Getty Images, the background matches Google images of the station’s façade, and it also ties in with what we can see in this video posted to Twitter:

Crowds fill hospitals

This video was filmed at the Hankou Hospital in Wuhan.



The person filming narrates what he sees: "There’s a sea of people, many with a high fever. Three or four doctors are directing patients. I estimate that they’ll have to wait for up to four hours. I don’t know what the government’s plans are – does it want these people to receive treatment quickly or wait for their death?"

Bodies in the corridors

This video was originally posted on Weibo by someone claiming to be a nurse in the Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan.

The video has been viewed over 94,000 times since being posted at 7am local time on January 24, 2020.


It shows a number of people piled into a corridor awaiting treatment, all with masks covering their faces. Medical workers walk amongst them in full hazmat suits. The most shocking detail: dead bodies lying on the ground, covered in blankets or plastic. The person who posted the video wrote that no one was able to take away the corpses.

The journalist Thomas Yau from the South China Morning Post verified aspects of the video on Twitter. He picked up on different clues in the video: a blanket over one of the bodies and a plastic bag, both with "Wuhan" written on them, and a sign on the floor pointing patients towards a "chest pain clinic".

We were able to verify these details. On the blanket it also says "Red Cross", confirming that the video was taken in Wuhan’s Red Cross Hospital.

The woman who posted the video on Weibo also posted the following desperate appeal.


This is the translation of the text.

I beg everyone to save the people of Wuhan! I am a nurse, my husband has been infected. The news reports and reality are seriously different!!! My husband has already had a fever continuously for eight days without any turn for the better, a CT scan clearly shows that his lungs have already been infected! Over the last eight days I have used all my connections in Wuhan’s hospitals, but he still hasn’t been hospitalised! The top management has told doctors to refuse to hospitalise patients! To refuse to test for the virus! To refuse to make a definite diagnosis! They even make the hospital staff sign a confidentiality agreement!

I have been under huge psychological pressure in the last eight days! The hospitals won’t take him, but I don’t dare go back home, I rush from one hospital to another, but not one of them will hospitalise him! They won’t make a diagnosis! It’s so bad, I’m starting to lose hope, I’m really worried that I will soon not be able to cope! Wandering around in the hospital(s), there are no beds available, the hospital staff are all working extra hours and as hard as they can, but it’s not enough, now even if you manage to get into the emergency room, which is already almost impossible, you just stay in the emergency room, because there are no beds! Ambulances (120) are still continuously bringing in sick people, whether people are sick or not, they are all put together in this appointed hospital. All sick people could be infected, that way everyone could die!

There are many more videos circulating online that the FRANCE 24 Observers were not able to independently verify.

“There aren’t enough health workers or beds at the hospital”

Our colleagues at RFI Chinese spoke to the renowned Chinese writer Fang Fang, a resident of Wuhan. She talked about the atmosphere in the city.

The residents of Wuhan are inevitably upset, even panicking, and all that because of the inefficacy of the measures taken by the authorities. This afternoon, when I left, there was no one around. Big shops were closed, but little shops were open, and they hadn’t run out of stock either. You could still find face masks and all kinds of food.

People who haven’t been affected by the virus have been advised to stay at home, where it’s safe. We’re all very worried about those who are ill. There aren’t enough health workers. There’s a lack of beds too, and they’re queueing up at the hospital, it’s awful. Ill people can’t be looked after properly, as all of the measures taken by the authorities have come too late. Those people weren’t put in quarantine earlier, everyone can still get around freely. It’s a really serious problem.


Article by Catherine Bennett (cfbennett2).

Article written with
Catherine Bennett

Catherine Bennett , Anglophone Journalist