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The Chinese government sealed off the city of Wuhan, where the deadly coronavirus originated, on Thursday.
People left in the city say they are desperately stockpiling food, and that prices are surging. They also say they are staying indoors.
Plane, bus, and train links are shut. Roads are reportedly closed as authorities urge people not to leave unless they have a good reason.
People in the city are also rushing to stockpile supplies, leaving stores empty of meat, vegetables and instant noodles. Authorities are urging people not to do this.
One person wrote on Chinese social media: "Right now people are fighting over supplies. Soon they may just be fighting."
People left in the Chinese city of Wuhan are stockpiling food and fuel, and avoiding the streets, after authorities sealed off the city of 11 million people to try and prevent the spread of a mysterious coronavirus that has killed at least 17 people.
The 2019-nCoV virus, first recorded in December 2019, has spread from the city to other parts of China, infecting 571 people in the country as of Thursday morning, as well as in other countries.
Authorities closed off transport links to the city, which is a major travel hub, on Thursday morning. They are effectively sealing the city off in an attempt to stop a further spread during the Chinese New Year holiday when hundreds of millions of Chinese people travel.
Everyone left in the city are now scrambling to stockpile essential goods, with residents reporting massive lines and skyrocketed prices.
'Everyone is on a buying spree'
Some residents posted on social media complaining of surging prices for goods, empty shelves, and long lines to buy things, Reuters reported.
"Everyone is on a buying spree," wrote one user on microblogging site Weibo, accompanying his post with an image of a long line at a checkout aisle, according to Reuters.
Several other residents told the news agency that people were rushing to stockpile supplies, leaving supermarket shelves empty of things like meat, vegetables and instant noodles.
And The Guardian reported that one another Weibo user posted an image of the food they bought and wrote: "No more going out ... so I won't get sick. Hope Wuhan can get some support soon."
Petrol stations were "overwhelmed," with people spreading false rumors that fuel reserves had run out, The Guardian added. A resident told Reuters that he had to line up for an hour to fill up his car.
Local pharmacies have also run out of face masks, which residents are now being required to wear, The Guardian reported.
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'Infected people could be right beside you'
Apartment buildings were also being disinfected, with many residents saying they plan leaving the house as little as possible, The Guardian reported.
One teacher told the outlet: "When I saw the news when I woke up, I felt like I was going to go crazy. This is a little too late now. The government's measures are not enough."
She said she had not left her house since January 19. "Infected people could be right beside you and you wouldn't know. That is what is scarier," she said.
HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images
'When people feel unsafe, terrible things happen'
The stockpiling has led to concerns that it could lead to further social unrest.
One Wuhan resident wrote on Weibo, according to The Guardian: "The government needs to address this. If things become too expensive, people will definitely panic and when people feel unsafe, terrible things happen."
"Right now people are fighting over supplies, soon they may just be fighting."
Wuhan's disease prevention body on Thursday asked people not to stockpile goods, saying in a Thursday statement cited by The Guardian: "At the present time, Wuhan's reserves of food, medicine and other supplies are all enough."
Officers blocked entrances and exits to stop people from leaving Wuhan
The government shut down planes, trains, and buses in Wuhan from 10 a.m. local time on Thursday.
Some residents raced to get out before the shutdown, and lined up to leave via public transport hubs, multiple outlets reported.
Videos filmed on the ground also showed law-enforcement officers blocking the entrances and exits of transport hubs:
—Ezra Cheung (@ezracheungtoto) January 23, 2020
—Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) January 23, 2020
People were also told not to enter or leave the city without a good reason, and Reuters cited state media reports saying the city's highway links were also cut off.
An unprecedented quarantine
Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization's China representative, described sealing off Wuhan as an extraordinary step in an interview with The Associated Press.
"To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science. It has not been tried before as a public health measure, so we cannot at this stage say it will or will not work," he said.
"Such a decision obviously has social and economic impacts that are considerable," he added.
The travel restrictions were extended to two other cities near Wuhan — Huanggang and Ezhou — on Thursday, effectively sealing off a total of 19 million people in China.
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