Photos show how China is grappling with the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak as 16 cities are quarantined and hospitals run out of space (Natalie Colarossi)

Chinese boy hugs relative amid coronavirus outbreak

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  • A rapidly spreading coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, has infected more than 20,000 people and killed at least 427 worldwide.
  • The virus is capable of spreading from person to person, and Chinese authorities are scrambling to treat a flood of new patients.
  • Chinese authorities have issued quarantines in 16 cities, halting transportation and cutting off nearly 50 million people while officials attempt to quell the outbreak.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

At least 20,000 people have been infected by the Wuhan coronavirus worldwide, and 427 people have died.

In just a matter of weeks, the virus has spread from an initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, to 25 other countries, and has resulted in the quarantine of at least 16 Chinese cities.

Chinese authorities are scrambling to contain the virus and treat an influx of new patients, but a reported lack of medical tests and protective gear are making matters difficult.

From putting cities on lockdown to panic-building new hospitals, here's what it looks like in China amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The first case of the coronavirus was reported in Wuhan in December, and is thought to have originated at the Huanan Seafood Market, a wet market that sold live animals next to seafood and meat.

wuhan wet market

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The Huanan Seafood Market was closed on January 1.

wet market

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Chinese authorities began an official investigation into the disease in early January, after fear began spreading that this could be like SARS, another coronavirus that originated in China and killed 774 people in the early 2000s.

Vietnam's Vice Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son (R) talks with a man at an isolated section of a hospital where two Chinese citizens had tested positive for coronavirus, in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam January 23, 2020. Thanh Chung/VNA via REUTERS


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On January 22, Chinese Health Officials held a press conference in Beijing to discuss what they knew about the outbreak. People were demanding answers.

On January 22, Chinese Health Officials held a press conference in Beijing to discuss what they knew about the outbreak.

Kyodo News/Getty ImagesAfter the initial outbreak, people began wearing masks to protect themselves from the virus — even though, for the average person, wearing a mask is not as effective as hand-washing and avoiding infected people to keep from getting the illness.

masks Wuhan in China

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When it became known that the virus could spread from human to human contact, China imposed screening precautions in Wuhan and began checking people for the virus at transportation hubs.

People wear masks to defend against coronavirus

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Passengers traveling to other parts of Asia from Wuhan were targeted for screening at airports.

Coronavirus airport

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Medics wearing Level D Hazmat suits were seen scanning passengers arriving from Wuhan on January 22.

Health Officials in hazmat suits check body temperatures of passengers arriving from the city of Wuhan Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, at the airport in Beijing, China. Nearly two decades after the disastrously-handled SARS epidemic, China’s more-open response to a new virus signals its growing confidence and a greater awareness of the pitfalls of censorship, even while the government is as authoritarian as ever. (AP Photo Emily Wang)

Emily Wang/AP

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As the death toll climbed to nine, the Chinese government urged people to avoid traveling to Wuhan and to stay away from public spaces — a warning that came just as millions of people were planning to migrate for the Lunar New Year.

lunar new year hong kong china masks wuhan coronavirus

AP Photo/Kin Cheung

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On January 23, the death toll grew to 17 and the city of Wuhan was put on official lockdown. All transportation was stopped and wearing a protective mask became mandatory.

Wuhan lockdown footage The Paper Twitter video coronavirus virus January 23

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People in Wuhan stockpiled food and fuel.


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Streets in Wuhan were deserted.

A major road going through the streets of the city remains deserted as people stay at home and avoid transport due to the virus outbreak in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province on January 29, 2020.

Hector Retamal / AFP / Getty

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As panic began to spread throughout China, videos surfaced of infected people being shoved into plastic boxes and tubes as authorities tried to contain the virus.

Business insider metal cages

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Shortly after Wuhan, two other Chinese cities, Huanggang and Ezhou, closed down their transportation, as well. At this point, 19 million people were put on lockdown.

Train Shanghai to Wuhan January 23 lockdown coronavirus outbreak

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But the virus continued to spread. On January 23, the death toll grew to 26.

Travelers wear face masks as they walk outside of the Beijing Railway Station in Beijing, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. China reported Monday a sharp rise in the number of people infected with a new coronavirus, including the first cases in the capital. The outbreak coincides with the country's busiest travel period, as millions board trains and planes for the Lunar New Year holidays. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

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By the afternoon of January 24, the virus had infected more than 900 people and spread to nine countries. Authorities in Wuhan struggled to contain an influx of patients.

wuhan hospital

AP Photo/Dake Kang

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One doctor in Wuhan said thousands of patients have been left waiting hours for treatment, and many were advised not to work over fears that they could become infected.

wuhan doctor

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Protective gear and test-kits have become so sparse in Wuhan that people have reportedly likened their chances to receiving them as "winning the lottery".

wuhan ambulance

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On January 25, the Chinese government barred citizens from booking overseas flights, hotels, and tours.

Wuhan coronavirus

REUTERS/Martin Pollard

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As hospitals struggle to treat an influx of new patients, the Chinese government announced plans to build a new hospital in Wuhan in just six days.


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Huoshenshan Hospital was completed 10 days later, on February 3, and is located on the outskirts of the city. It has an area of 270,000 square feet, and is equipped with 1,000 beds, and 1,400 military medics of the Chinese People's Liberation Army as staff.

Wuhan hospital


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On January 31, the US government announced plans to bar foreign travelers from entering the US if they have traveled to China within 14 days. And the Pentagon has started preparing quarantine facilities that can hold up to 1,000 people entering the country, if necessary.

wuhan airport

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On February 2, the Chinese Health Commission reported that among those infected in Wuhan, 475 people had made full recoveries, while 361 died.

wuhan coronavirus medical staff india hospital

P. Ravikumar/Reuters

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But officials fear that the virus could reinfect those who have seemingly made full recoveries.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (CDC via AP)

CDC via AP

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On February 3, a study published in the journal Nature found that the Wuhan virus is 80% similar genetically to SARS. This indicates that vaccines developed for SARS may work for the Wuhan virus.

worker disenfects wuhan doctor

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By February 4, more than 20,000 people were infected worldwide, and 16 Chinese cities were quarantined. An estimated 50 million people have now been put on lockdown.

Wuhan lockdown composite January 23 coronavirus

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People are being screened for the virus at major transportation hubs around the world.

wuhan coronavirus

Emily Wang/AP Photo

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Still scrambling to support new patients, Wuhan has begun transforming sports stadiums and exhibition centers into makeshift hospitals. Three such facilities were prepared to add 3,400 new beds.

A worker sets up beds at the Hongshan Stadium to convert it into a makeshift hospital following an outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 4, 2020.

China Daily via REUTERS

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Wuhan currently has 46 hospitals and 61 suitable clinics available, but as the virus spreads, authorities fear they're not enough.

Workers lay beds in the Wuhan living room exhibition center, Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, February 4, 2020.

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As of February 4, 25 countries have been affected by the disease. The first two deaths to occur outside of China have been reported in the Philippines and Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, center, speaks during a press conference held in Hong Kong, Monday, Feb 3, 2020. Lam says the city will shut almost all land and sea border control points to the mainland from midnight to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus from China. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

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Since the virus is highly transmissible, scientists fear it may soon be declared a pandemic.

wuhan indonesia spray

Indonesia Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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Though many in China and throughout the world continue to wear masks to protect themselves from the virus, the US Centers for Disease Control said face masks are not nearly as protective as washing your hands and avoiding close contact with the sick.

People wear protective face masks on a street corner in Hong Kong, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. In Hong Kong, thousands of health care workers were threatening to go on strike Tuesday unless the government agrees to talks before a 6 p.m. Monday deadline. Hong Kong has recorded 14 cases of the virus and has cut flights and train and bus connections to the mainland, but a push is growing for the semi-autonomous Chinese city to close the border completely. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

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