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City under lockdown: Anxiety and frustration simmer in Wuhan

Food is available, but hospital beds and medical supplies are lacking

A crowded supermarket in Wuhan on Jan. 25 following notice that a driving ban would be instituted the following day. Photo provided by a city resident.

SHANGHAI -- As the lockdown of Wuhan enters its fourth day, concerned residents are snapping up food at supermarkets, while those seeking medical attention have been turned away at hospitals.

Restrictions on movement are fueling concern and frustration among residents as the number of people infected with the new coronavirus continues to grow, social media postings and telephone conversations show.

A man in his 30s living in Wuhan drove to a Metro supermarket on Saturday, after hearing that ordinary cars will be barred from the downtown area starting Sunday. He said that although the parking lot and store were crowded, there were plenty of products on the shelves -- except for some vegetables -- apparently because authorities have been careful to avoid shortages. Prices were somewhat higher than usual, he said.

Roughly 30% of the more than 2,000 people confirmed to be infected are in Wuhan. The government on Thursday suspended public transportation into and out of the city in addition to closing highway tollbooths. The lockdown was expanded to cover almost all major cities in Hubei Province by Saturday.

A 40-something man who came back to his family home in Wuhan for the Lunar New Year holiday from Hainan Island where he works said that he has stayed indoors since Friday. He said that his family has stockpiled about two weeks' worth of food, but they are eating small amounts because the city is in lockdown.

A Japanese expatriate said he does not feel there is a shortage of goods, with breakfast being served normally in his apartment. But he is concerned that authorities will block the flow of information by shutting down the internet, for example. He said that he and other Japanese people have designated a place to meet in case internet and phone services go down.

Meanwhile, there are reports of a shortage of medicine and surgical masks as well as hospital beds. The 30-something man who went to the supermarket said that his friend got infected and went to the hospital but was turned away, told to stay at home because his symptoms -- coughing, lethargy and digestive issues -- are stable.

Hong'an County in Huanggang, which neighbors Wuhan, on Friday asked for donations of masks, protective clothing, goggles, gloves, rubber boots and caps. A college student who came home for the holiday from Hangzhou said that masks cannot be found because there are no drugstores as in big cities.

The central government said that it will build a 1,000-bed hospital in 10 days, and news reports repeatedly show a fleet of excavators at work. The Wuhan city government plans to set aside 10,000 beds for those with fevers by the end of this month, in part by taking over 24 general hospitals.

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