It is said the virus can be spread human-to-human during the incubation period of up to 14 days, even if there are no visible symptoms present. There is no cure or vaccine at present.
The outbreak couldn’t have happened at a worse time either. Cases began to accelerate at the beginning of the Lunar New Year, when millions of Chinese residents traveled across the world globally to celebrate with friends and family.
One family, who has been living in Wuhan since April 2019, spoke to me about their experience travelling to Hong Kong during the epidemic. They are now back in Wuhan, and have shared candidly about life inside the isolated city.
Connie, 28, is from Hubei province and leads a kindergarten. Her husband Emmanuel, 42, is from Geneva, Switzerland and is a stay-at-home father. They have two young children, Nikola, 2, and Nikita, 8-months-old.
How do you think the Chinese government has handled the outbreak?
“The Xi government has said it’s ‘strictly forbidden’ to hide any information from the public. There have been news apps that have been updating every few hours, telling us how many are affecting and have died”, Connie said.
“Most companies in some ways are linked to the government, so information will be passed down to staff and employees,” Emmanuel added.
Despite being unsure if they would be able re-enter Wuhan, they booked their journey via train.
Were you worried about entering Hong Kong and passing on the virus, even if you didn’t know you had it?
“As we left our home, we were definitely NOT a carrier of the virus. The biggest risk for us would have been the train stations and the train coming to Hong Kong. We sat in our seat, we didn’t let people come close and were careful with what we touched,” Emmanuel said.
When you left Wuhan did you need to complete a medical survey?
“No, but (as we left) we got tested one by one by medical professionals, with our temperature taken.”
“We booked our trip months ago, not just to escape Wuhan. Fortunately, we left the city before it got shut down. For ninety-nine percent of my colleagues in Wuhan, they’ve had to cancel their trips,” Connie told me.
The Kangs were some of the lucky ones to enjoy a holiday unscathed, despite it not being completely incident-free.
Connie admitted, “I didn’t have any backup plans. It was quite a desperate situation we were facing.”
But on January 28th, the Kangs decided to try and get home. Despite being unsure if they would be able re-enter Wuhan, they booked their journey via train to Yueyang East Station, one stop short of Wuhan.
As they got on the train, they learned, much to their surprise, that they would be able to book another ticket into Wuhan. The journey from Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Station took over four hours.
Luckily, Connie’s quick thinking allowed her work colleagues to pick them up from the station, before taking them home. As they dashed away, it was something they’d never experienced before.
But here, the scenes were post-apocalyptic. The roads were deserted, traffic was non-existent, and people on the street were scarce. The gloomy weather and eerily quiet streets made everything even more mysterious.
However, being back within the epicentre of the virus means they are back at risk of infection.
“For me, I stay home, you can always order things online, like food and vegetables.
“But online ordering has started to become difficult with prices going up,” Emmanuel shared.
He is one of at least eight Swiss nationals in Wuhan. But despite plans from the Swiss government to evacuate its nationals, Emmanuel has insisted he is going nowhere.
“We will stay. There is no way we will put ourselves at risk one more time,” he stressed.
Connie is waiting to see when she can go back to work, but the Hubei Province Government has announced that the earliest companies can start working again is on February 13th.
In the meantime, Connie is content to stay at home and within her family circle.
“We will just stay home and keep the place as clean as possible. (Before the outbreak), we almost never go out; we have no social relations in Wuhan. My work is less than five minutes’ walk from our home,” Connie added.