Coronavirus outbreak leaves Lytham teacher living in Wuhan stranded miles from home as city shuts down
The rapid spread of the deadly coronavirus through China has left a Lytham teacher stranded in a foreign city and unable to get home.
Shell Buchanan – who grew up on the Fylde coast – lives and works in Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak.
More than 80 people have been killed by the virus, which has led to travel bans in several Chinese cities, while Wuhan is on lockdown.
Shell, who graduated from Blackpool and the Fylde College’s university centre in 2013, travelled to Fuzhou, in China’s Fujian province, last week to visit friends in the city where she lived last year.
Former Preston’s College student Shell said: “Obviously at this point, I’m starting to freak out. I’m trapped outside of the city.
“I can’t access any of my belongings – paperwork, laptops, clothes – which means I can’t do any work.
“People inside started panic buying. Masks mostly, but then food from all the local supermarkets started to disappear.”
She said she was quarantined by the local government yesterday, meaning she can’t leave Fuzhou for 10 days.
“I was turned away from every hotel I tried and then found a friend to stay with,” she added.
“But when I arrived, I was met by police and told I am no longer allowed outside as the virus has a long incubation period.”
When she told her employers at Hankou University back in Wuhan, where she teaches English language and photography, the message was: “It’s getting worse.”
She was advised to stay away.
“They closed off the internal transport – no busses or subway,” she added.
“There was a message from the government to wear a mask outside, and that anyone who wasn’t wearing one would face the law. People are bored, frustrated and scared.
“It’s true that the streets are empty but people go out to buy food from the larger supermarket chains as they still have plenty of stock.
“None of us know how long this will be in effect for.”
Shell said she fell in love with travelling when she got a job on a cruise ship after graduating from her photography and digital design degree.
She spent time in Cornwall working on the Eden Project before completing a qualification in teaching English as a foreign language and moving to China two years ago.
She returned home to Lytham, where her family lives, last summer while she looked for another contract, eventually moving to Wuhan.
She said: “Living in Wuhan has always been difficult. It’s a huge city, unlike any I have seen before.
“You see a lot of animal cruelty – or what would be classed as cruelty in the west – on the streets. Dogs in cages that are raised for meat are very difficult to un-see.
“The pollution is always thick, and the level of hygiene is low.”
Coronavirus is a group of viruses that cause respiratory infections. While many are not serious, they include the SARS virus that killed 774 people during an outbreak in 2003, which began in southern China.
Getting information about the current situation has been a struggle due to the language barrier, Shell said.
“I was informed about a possible SARS outbreak while in my office in early January,” she added.
“Some images from the market had spread around the locals. People started to prepare then but the government sent out a message telling everyone not to panic.
“I would love to have more information, but I only have videos and Chinese news that’s translated for me.
“I can barely speak Chinese, so being locked out isn’t ideal. I will push through, and so will the people of Wuhan.
“The doctors and nurses out here deserve a lot of praise for their hard work in this time of crisis.
“It does feel a little like the end of days.”