‘Sealed shut’: 24m in indefinite lockdown
About 24 million people in China have been forced into lockdown as other parts of the country attempt to go back to normal amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The central Chinese province of Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, has seen residents ordered to stay home until further notice.
Under new rules, which came into effect on Sunday, each one of the province's 200,000 rural communities will be sealed shut, with only one guarded entrance. Similar restrictions will be placed on urban residential compounds.
Only community residents and vehicles are permitted to enter, and only one person from each household may leave every three days to buy essentials from the supermarket.
"In principle, every villager should stay at home. If he really needs to step outside, he has to wear a mask and keep a minimum 1.5 metres from other people," the regulations say, according to the South China Morning Post.
"All leisure and entertainment venues shall be shut down and all group activities shall be suspended. Weddings should be postponed, and funeral processes minimised … Visiting other households is strictly prohibited, as is playing mahjong and card games."
The roads of Hubei will be off-limits to any vehicles except police vans, ambulances and other specially licensed vehicles.
All other businesses will stay closed, with the exception of chemists, hotels, food shops and medical services.
However, according to The Straits Times, the government will arrange for essentials to be delivered to the homes of people who are restricted.
The outlet said businesses were to cease operations until they were given an official green light from authorities
The province of 58 million accounts for over 80 per cent of the confirmed cases and 96 per cent of the deaths in China.
The extreme measures come three weeks after China locked down Wuhan - a measure that was later mirrored in other cities.
They also come as President Xi Jinping called on the nation to get back to business and revive production after the extended Lunar New Year break.
Four days ago, Ying Yong, the former mayor Shanghai, became the new Communist Party Secretary of Hubei - one of the most important political jobs in the province.
CRAZY WAYS PEOPLE IN CHINA ARE KILLING TIME
People in lockdown are coming up with creative ways to kill time.
Pan Shancu, a fanatical jogger, said he jogged the equivalent of an ultra-marathon inside his tiny apartment, as people in the virus-hit country attempt to stay fit while cooped up indoors.
With much of the 1.4 billion population ordered indoors and gyms closed, people are competing to outdo each other in how many bottles of water they can lift, how many push-ups they can do with their children on their backs or how many flights of stairs they can scale in their tower blocks.
Pan said he jogged 66 kilometres in a loop at home in six hours and 41 minutes. "I felt a little dizzy at first, but you get used to it after you circle many times," Pan told AFP. "Running is like an addiction. If you don't run for a long time, you get itchy feet."
On another occasion Pan ran 30km on the spot in his bathroom and live-streamed it to inspire others who have similarly been confined at home for the last two weeks.
"I am in an online chat group in which people are asking what we want to do most after the epidemic," said Pan, a massage therapist and dedicated long-distance runner.
"Some people said they want to have a feast. I said that I want to run 100 kilometres outside."
A lot of people have turned to social media to find creative ways to stay fit. Beijing dance instructor Mona Li told the ABC she was hosting online dance classes on WeChat, correcting students' technique using multiple split screens on her smartphone.
"I'm avoiding teaching the more difficult techniques," she said. "For now, it's good enough just to get everyone together for the basics."
Even coronavirus hospital patients in Wuhan have been holding dance parties, filming and posting routines on social media which have gone viral.
Citizens have also increasingly turned to dating apps to cope with not being able to go out.
CORONAVIRUS DEATH TOLL CONTINUES TO RISE
The number of people infected with the coronavirus passed 70,000 today, as international experts began meetings with their Chinese counterparts on how to tackle an epidemic that has caused global concern.
The death toll jumped to 1765 in mainland China after 100 more people died in Hubei province.
Worries about its spread remain high and the epidemic's reach was highlighted by the US announcing that more than three dozen Americans from a cruise ship quarantined off Japan were infected.
The number of new cases of the COVID-19 strain spiked last week when officials in Hubei changed their criteria for counting cases to include people diagnosed through lung imaging.
On Monday, the number of new cases in the province was around 100 higher than those on Sunday but still sharply down from those reported on Friday and Saturday.
The latest figures came as the head of the World Health Organisation said international experts in a WHO-led joint mission had arrived in Beijing and had had their first meeting with their Chinese counterparts.
"We look forward to this vitally important collaboration contributing to global knowledge about the #COVID19 outbreak," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Twitter.
Mi Feng, National Health Commission spokesman, said on Sunday that slowing case numbers nationally showed that China was controlling the outbreak.
But Mr Tedros has warned it is "impossible to predict which direction this epidemic will take".
The UN health body has also asked China for more details on how diagnoses are being made.
- with AFP