Wuhan: a historic city and a large hub
By European standards, Wuhan is a large city, the capital of Hubei, central China / photo: Getty Images
8 million residents live there, and the total population, along with migrants and suburbs, reaches 11 million people. It is the seventh largest city in China, based on the confluence of the Yangtze and Hanshui rivers. It is the 42nd largest city in the world, according to the UN. It is believed that he is at least 3,500 years old.
Even in antiquity, the area became an important port, managed to visit under British and Japanese control. It was in Wuhan that the 1911 uprising began, which put an end to the rule of the Chinese emperors and the Qin dynasty. In 1949, the People's Republic of China appeared, as we know it.
Wuhan is the commercial and industrial capital of central China. The place of processing steel, iron, ore and coal. Wuhan is also a large transport hub for the whole country, from where transport is sent by land, air, water. To Beijing and Hong Kong – 4 hours by train, to Shanghai – six. Of interesting events – a competition for swimming the Yangtze in memory of the swim of Mao Zedong in 1966 (then China's leaders were 72). There is a dam on the rivers.
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Tourists are attracted by historical architecture such as the Yellow Crane Tower and East Lake (albeit seriously polluted). Until recently, investors have actively invested in the development of Wuhan. There are even factories of world automobile brands there.
There are several leading Chinese universities in the city and up to 1 million students are studying. This is the largest quantity in all of China. The climate of the city is hot and humid. Wuhan is one of the cities in China where the matches of the World Cup among clubs should be held, so it is being actively updated. In 2018, it was from Wuhan that the former head of the British government, Theresa May, began her visit.
One of the Chinese traditions, namely the "raw market" in the Hanku region, caused a new outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan. Live and freshly killed animals are sold in these markets, often under extremely unsanitary conditions. After the outbreak started, Wuhan was quarantined completely. Now it is impossible to leave the city and it is impossible to call in. In fact, tens of millions of people in Wuhan and nearby cities were isolated just when they were about to travel on the occasion of the lunar New Year. The attempt to introduce quarantine is not new; it has been known since the Middle Ages. But no one has yet tried to completely close such a big city.
Sanitary cordon: how effective is it
Wuhan Street after quarantine begins / photo: Getty Images
So, on Thursday morning local time, trains, ferries, subways and buses stopped running to and from the city. Cars were not formally banned initially, but local residents were strongly advised not to leave the city. How can you close a multi-million city, which is 5 times larger than London and with a larger population than New York? Yes, so that it is also effective?
This will require the enormous efforts of the army, which needs to block 20 major roads leading to the city, and many smaller ones, as well as a station, port and airport. The military should literally surround the city, experts say, as during a siege. Army experts are confident that in today's global world this is an inefficient practice. It complicates international assistance and expert access.
Not to mention the fact that it is very expensive for the state and bad for the economy. For example, restrictions on flights after 9/11 did not prevent the spread of influenza. The study clearly says: "In highly mobile populations, the restriction on travel after an outbreak … does not affect the possible number of patients." When the swine flu hit, stopping flights to Mexico delayed the virus … for three days! It still became an epidemic in a short time. And there they even closed the churches, and the cafes worked only for takeaways!
“Even if you throw the whole Chinese army at it, it won’t be completely effective,” said John Spencer, head of the urban warfare research department at the Institute of Modern Warfare. If you set up roadblocks, guards, concrete barricades and garbage trucks on the roads, this will only solve the problem of cars. But people can, in theory, leave the city on foot.
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In addition, Wuhan is not one solid city. There are three large areas (which used to be cities themselves), suburbs and villages. Close these territories will be even more difficult. Efficiency, confident Western analysts, can only be partial. Goudin Galeyah, WHO spokesman for China, said in an AP comment that Wuhan's isolation is "news in science. At this point, it cannot be said whether it will work."
Almost 20 days elapsed between the first report of cases of illness (December 31) before confirmation of transmission from person to person (January 20). During this period, the city was opened and thousands of people left it. Although the risk of infection elsewhere in the world still exists, the authorities reacted quickly enough to keep the number of cases outside of China as low as possible. But there are already cases outside Wuhan, including in Beijing.
However, in an isolated environment, the virus can spread further among residents. There is a difference, experts explain, between infected people and infected people. The former may not show symptoms of the disease at all, although they have a virus in their bodies. But if they are in contact with other people, then "quietly" transmit the virus to them, too. And they may not even know about it! The incubation period is not exactly known, but can be from 2 to 12 days. The complexity of the diagnosis is that coronavirus can easily be confused with the flu or the common cold.
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If you close such a big city as Wuhan, it means that the government is losing control of the epidemic. Most likely, there are much more cases. No wonder they are building a new hospital there. Ironically, Wuhan has a state-of-the-art P4 laboratory for the study of infectious and fatal diseases such as Ebola. This is a collaboration with France, which has strong ties with the city. P4 means the maximum level of threat to which Beijing and Shanghai have been raised.
What happens in closed cities of China
Almost empty shelves in a store, Wuhan / photo: Getty Images
As in any city that is subject to the conditional “post-apocalypse,” panic begins. People buy food, hygiene items, face masks, medicines in pharmacies. Photos of half-empty shelves in stores are already appearing – no vegetables, no cookies. Public meetings are prohibited, all New Year celebrations are canceled, now it is mandatory to wear masks in the city. Although the price of them and also food has risen. For example, a bowl of noodles now costs twice as much as before an epidemic.
In the settlements adjacent to Wuhan, some restrictions are also introduced: exhibitions, cinemas, theaters are closed. Bus and train stations are closing. Those who have already purchased tickets cannot leave the city and are stuck in it. Conversely, temperature test stations open. Wuhan is gradually becoming a ghost town. The bustling M + shopping center was almost empty, although it was open. Part of the Great Wall, the National Stadium (also known as the Bird's Nest), the Forbidden City, the National Museum, the Ming Dynasty Mausoleum and the Yingshan Forest Pagodas were closed in Beijing. In Shanghai, closed Chinese Disneyland.
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One man told AFP that he was leaving the house just to buy what he needed. Another resident of Wuhan admitted that there was no longer enough food and disinfection. Mao, 26, said he didn’t even leave his house for two days. The atmosphere of fear and despair spreads through the big city.
Doctors say that there are thousands of patients, they wait hours for a doctor. Seven hospitals with 3000 beds are “completely full” and this is “not enough.” And Renmin Hospital announced that it is accepting donations. Now the mortality rate is 3%. Mostly these are elderly people with existing health problems. After some time, the doctors were told not to go to work because of the risk of infection (they all went out and got sick). Drivers tripled passenger fees.
Even the McDonald's ceased operations in five locations in Hebei Province. The hotels check everyone for a fever and serve breakfast only in their rooms.