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Families in NZ left powerless as relatives forced into lockdown in China amid coronavirus

Every time Jane Xu reads the news about the spread of the coronavirus in her home city in China she breaks down in tears.

Jane Xu with her sister and parents. Source: 1 NEWS

“It’s really hard. It’s just crazy how it’s escalated,” she says.

Jane, an accountant who is based in Auckland, moved to New Zealand to study nearly 10 years ago, leaving her family in Jingzhou in the Hubei province.

The city along with many other cities including Wuhan in the Hubei province have been placed in lockdown as the deadly outbreak of coronavirus sweeps through the region.

Since late last week, Jingzhou has been in lockdown with buses and cars banned from leaving the city.

The city of nearly 7 million people has had nearly 50 cases of the virus since it was first reported back in December 2019.

Jane’s parents, grandparents and sister along with three of her uncles are unable to leave Jingzhou and with public transport and many supermarkets closed they have no choice but to stay at home.

“My family is panicked about the outbreak and trying to protect themselves at home.

“Most are surviving off the food they got for Chinese New Year,” Jane says.

She says every morning she checks her phone to hear how her family is doing.

Powerless to help her family with restrictions on travel, Jane says she’s been buying masks to send to Jingzhou which is dangerously low on supplies.

According to Aljazeera hospitals outside of Wuhan - the centre of the outbreak - are under-resourced, running out of protective suits and masks with many doctors fearing more people could be at risk of contracting the disease.

Jane says her uncle who works as a heart surgeon at a hospital in Jingzhou where they are treating patients with coronavirus are overwhelmed with the increase of their workload and are low on stock such as disinfectant and face masks.

With the escalation of the virus, Jane says she fears for her family’s health, especially with a travel restriction in place making it difficult for her to help her family if the worse came to worse.

“I want to go back if they get sick. But is that wise?

“I feel quite helpless and don’t know what I can do for them. Apart from praying there’s not much I can do.”

Jane’s family were supposed to be flying to New Zealand in February ahead of her wedding in April but have had their tickets cancelled.

She says her family hasn’t heard when the lockdown which has been extended will be lifted.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has advised New Zealanders to not travel to the Hubei province while the travel restrictions are in place.

Although residents in Wuhan are allowed to travel throughout the city the airport is closed and there are international restrictions in place for those travelling outside of the city and Hubei.

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At least 56 people have died by the illness which started in Wuhan, China. Source: 1 NEWS

Caroline Ding watches the news every day to hear what is happening in her home city of Wuhan.

“I’m worried they can get infected and I call my family and watch the news every day.”

The epicentre of the virus that has caused fear across the world with more than 100 dead and over 6000 infected, Wuhan a city of over 10 million people has been at the forefront of the fight to contain a catastrophic outbreak of coronavirus.

Caroline is the only person in her immediate family who lives in Wuhan.

Her father was supposed to have been coming to New Zealand in mid-February, but like Jane’s family had their flights delayed.

Caroline says they’re not sure when the travel restrictions will be lifted but says her family have been receiving good information about the situation in their city.

“Of course, they’re worried…but they feel informed of what’s going on and what actions are being taken to protect people.”

Her aunty works as a doctor at a hospital in Wuhan and says they are stressed with the volume of work since the outbreak but are being supplied with enough resources and medical teams are being sent to help with the increased load.

Caroline says she and her family feel confident that Chinese authorities are doing what they can to stop the spread of this virus.

Five hours north of Wuhan in the city of Zhengzhou in the Henan province a Chinese New Zealander, who asked not to be named, is stranded in Airbnb accommodation after coming down with a cold.

Due to tight regulations anyone who has symptoms of a cold or flu has to be isolated and is only cleared to travel 14 days after they have recovered.

The teacher aid who has lived in New Zealand for 10 years was in Henan province visiting her parents for Chinese New Year.

Coming down with a cold she’s unable to visit the hospital where her dad is currently receiving treatment for kidney failure.

Her mother’s rest home was automatically put into lockdown and she’s unable to visit her.

She was due to fly out on January 31 but is now having to delay her plans to return to New Zealand leaving her with little options for accommodation.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” she told 1 News.

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NZ citizens trapped in virus hit Wuhan to be evacuated in joint operation with Australia

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says there are 53 New Zealanders who are registered as being in Wuhan City with 20 having already contacted the consular in China for help.

It was announced today that the New Zealand and Australian governments will evacuate Australian and New Zealand citizens from Wuhan in a joint operation.

This comes as the World Health Organization warns the number of new cases will likely rise.

It’s not known how long the lockdown period for the Hubei province will continue for or it if it will be extended to other areas.

For the families here in New Zealand with relatives in China all they can do it wait and see what happens in the coming weeks.

“I really hope they can find a cure,” says Jane.

News tip or more information? Email Natalia Sutherland