Kristina Shramko, a 21-year-old Canadian citizen, is quarantined in Wuhan, China, amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
Shramko said she has refused to leave because her government won't allow her cat on an evacuation flight.
She has been filming YouTube videos inside her loft, and said the quarantine has taken a mental toll.
Kristina Shramko hasn't been outside in a full week.
The last time she left her loft in Wuhan, China, officers in the supermarket across the street checked her temperature before she entered the store to buy groceries. She wore a mask — a requirement in Wuhan as of late January — and officers patrolled the store to make sure patrons complied, Shramko said.
Wuhan has been under lockdown since January 23 because the 11-million-person city is the origin point of the deadly coronavirus outbreak. The COVID-19 virus, as it's now known, has so far infected at least 67,000 people and killed more than 1,500. (For the latest case total, death toll, and travel information, see Business Insider's live updates here.) The majority of those cases are in the Hubei province, where Wuhan is located. China has quarantined more than 50 million people throughout the province. All transportation in and out of Wuhan has been halted.
Shramko is Canadian — she grew up in Vancouver, where she studied fashion marketing. She met her boyfriend, who lives in Wuhan, while on a month-long trip to the city. She moved there to be with him about eight months before the coronavirus outbreak began. When the city shut down, Shramko's boyfriend was on a business trip. The quarantine rules mean he can't return, so he's staying with family in a different province.
That has left Shramko alone with her ginger-colored cat, Kitya.
When Canadian authorities started chartering flights to evacuate citizens, Shramko registered. But then she learned there was a strict no-pet policy on the plane. She wouldn't leave Kitya behind.
"I don't know when the epidemic will be over so it's kind of abandoning her in a way, even if I give her to a friend," Shramko told Business Insider.
But life under quarantine hasn't been easy.
"After a month of just being alone and not having that much human interaction, it really takes its toll mentally," Shramko said.
Life in a ghost town
The grocery store across the street from Shramko's apartment was basically empty, she said. A few bags of noodles and some condiment packages remained on the shelves, but for the most part, they were bare. Still, the supermarket is the place Shramko has seen the most activity since Wuhan residents were quarantined, she said.
"It's pretty much a ghost town outside," she said. "I live directly across from a huge mall and this mall was always packed with people. Even the street to get into the mall's parking lot was always busy. Now, there are no cars at all and nobody outside."
Shramko, who is 21 years old, lives in Wuhan's Hanyang district. She said she's passing the time under quarantine by working on her YouTube channel. During the day, she films and edits videos or watches videos from other users.
"If I'm not working on videos, I'll watch a movie," she said. "China has something similar to Netflix so I've been able to watch American movies here."
She said she has also been reading books and playing with Kitya.
The person she talks to most often, she added, is her boyfriend, though friends are checking up on her from time to time. Shramko talks to her family almost every day, too.
"They update me on what they're hearing about the coronavirus in Canada and I let them know what's going on in China," she said.
For now, the Chinese government has offered to extend foreigner visas for those under lockdown.
But money is getting tight, she said.
"Nobody is working right now so there is no income," Shramko said. "I'm trying to save as much money as possible since we don't know when all of this will be over."
She said she has heard rumors that the quarantine could last until April or May.
'They are doing their best'
Shramko wasn't too concerned about the coronavirus at the start of the lockdown.
"In my mind, a super contagious and deadly virus just didn't seem real," she said. "It seemed like something you only saw in movies. After a few weeks, it really kicked in that this was a serious matter."
But she added that some of the fear surrounding the outbreak is still over-dramatized.
"I can't tell you how many times people have messaged me on Twitter or Instagram in a panic, asking me to leave China right now, as if if I didn't leave, I would die," she said. "If you are careful and take the necessary precautions, you'll be fine."
Shramko said she has been washing her hands constantly and trying not to leave the house unless it's absolutely necessary. When she does, she wears her mask. Toward the start of the outbreak, she said, her sinuses started acting up and she worried she might have contracted the virus, but the symptoms were short-lived.
The majority of coronavirus patients so far have been older men with preexisting health problems, according to a recent study of nearly 140 patients in Wuhan. Chinese authorities have reported that 80% of the cases in China are among those ages 60 and older, and the World Health Organization estimates that 14% of the reported cases in China are "severe."
Shramko said she understands why the Chinese government has struggled to quash the outbreak.
"I can't say that I've put all my faith in the Chinese government, but I can say that they are doing their best," she said. "It's a highly contagious virus, so it's hard to control."
But that doesn't mean she wants to stay in Wuhan. Shramko said she's getting restless to return to Canada and wishes the government would allow her evacuate with Kitya.
"She's been there for me throughout this whole quarantine," Shramko said of her cat. "I should be there for her, too."
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