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Canadian family living in Wuhan describe 'eerie' silence of life on lockdown

Last Updated Feb 4, 2020 at 3:20 pm PST

A Canadian man who lives in Wuhan, China, with his family believes being hunkered down behind closed doors is safer than trying to board a plane and flee the epicentre of the dreaded coronavirus.

“We are not quite sure about the safety, for ourselves and for others,” Wayne Duplessis said when asked why they haven’t attempted to fly back to Canada.

“You’ve got a 14-day incubation window where people can be asymptotic for much of that time, and in rare occasions they can still be contagious.

“Certainly, I have that fear for my wife and my sons … Once you’re on the airplane you’ve got recycled air. If someone is contagious, it’s going to spread.”

Duplessis, who is originally from the Sudbury area, teaches history and social science in Wuhan. He was also in China during the SARS outbreak.

“This is our second time living in China,” he explained. “We were here from 2003 to 2006. We were here for SARS so that has kind of informed our experience here.”

He says an eerie silence has enveloped the city since public and private transportation has been halted. “We are not trapped in our apartments, but we’re essentially restricted to the apartment and now the lock down is getting a little more stringent,” he explained. “They are trying to stop people from visiting other people because that’s been happening even in a quarantine situation.”

“Since they’ve taken private cars off the road, even motorcycles, it’s just a very, very quiet city. Some areas get eerily quiet.”

Duplessis says his family has about 20 to 25 days worth of rations inside their home, and they expect to be inside the apartment without leaving for the next 10 days.

They managed to stock up at one of the last markets to remain open before the city became a virtual ghost town.

“The market was quite crowded, but it was also closed when we got there,” he recalled. “We stood there and we didn’t know if it was going to open again and we stood there for 20 minutes and the crowd started to form and people started to get a little tense. And of course you would — this is the one market that’s still open.”

“Thankfully it opened, and the staff had been cleaning,” he recalled. “So, we bought everything we could in that store and the smell of bleach was quite strong …”

Despite the scope of the lock down and the uncertainty going forward, Duplessis says people in his Wuhan neighbourhood have been stoic and resilient in the face of the deadly virus.

“To be honest there hasn’t really been hysteria here, people are quite focused,” he said. “This is a very working-class neighbourhood, so people just get on with what they have to get on with.”