Wuhan in Lockdown

China – On December 31, Corona virus, a new flu-like infection, was detected in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and the most populous city in central China. So far, over 12.000 people have been infected and more than 230 people died as the disease has begun to spread beyond Chinese borders as well.

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No buses, trains of planes can enter or leave Wuhan. Motorways have been blocked. The ‘Chinese Chicago’ is in lockdown. In few days the vibrant metropolis’ urbanscape has become surreal. Streets, parks and squares are empty as people stay home and only leave their flat for grocery errands or emergency situations. Shops, restaurants and markets are closed, silence reigns in the metro stations. The few people walking around wear a mask while traffic lights turn red and green with no traffic.

At night a light show takes place across the city with words of encouragement. Shouts of jiāyóu can be heard echoing between high-rise apartment blocks as people take to their balconies to shout what translates literally as “add oil”, meaning ‘keep up the fight’, to their neighbours.

Meanwhile the Chinese government is rapidly building a 1,600-bed hospital in the Caidian District in the west of the city to contain the infection. The structure will allow to isolate and treat patients contracting the corona virus. Named Wuhan Huoshenshan Hospital, the 25,000-square-metre prefabricated facility is being built in just 10 days and is set to open on February 3.

The design is based on the Xiaotangshan Hospital which was built within a week in Beijing during the SARS outbreak in 2003, the new facility could really make a difference, “China has a record of getting things done fast even for monumental projects like this,” says Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In the past decades Wuhan has transformed from a traditional base for manufacturing to a vibrant metropolis promoting modern industrial change. The city consists of three national development zones, four scientific and technologic development parks, over 350 research institutes, 1,656 hi-tech enterprises and numerous enterprise incubators and international firms.