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Canadian teacher in Wuhan hunkers down, stays put

Hunkering down in Wuhan

A Canadian teacher who lives in the Chinese city that is the epicentre of a coronavirus outbreak says he has no plans to leave.

Wayne Duplessis says he and his family are hunkered down in their home just outside of Wuhan's city centre. He, his wife, Emily Tjandra, and their 15-year-old son Wyatt have spent the last two weeks chatting with people online, watching videos, movies, and the news, and listening to music.

Some Canadians in Wuhan have called on the federal government to send a flight to get them out, but Duplessis said in a Skype interview that he doesn't want to spend hours in the air with people who could be sick.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief medical officer, has said symptoms of the new coronavirus are similar to those of the common flu and it can take up to two weeks for an infected person to start showing signs.

Duplessis is originally from Espanola, Ont., and he teaches at Wuhan Optics Valley Weiming Experimental School. He said he thinks it's best to wait it out in Wuhan "no matter how difficult that is."

His advice is to maintain routine.

"Get up in the morning, make your bed, brush your teeth, make breakfast, so some things are the same way everyday ... follow that routine so there is a structure to your day."

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of the new virus, with more than 100 deaths. Most have been in the central city of Wuhan where the outbreak began in December.

Last week, China began drastic containment efforts to limit the spread of the virus, cutting plane, train and bus links to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people.

"Pretty much since they announced the lockdown ... last week it's been ridiculously quiet. Eerily quiet," Duplessis said. "It's been described by various people here like something out of a dystopian movie or something out of 'The Walking Dead.'"

Duplessis said when he last visited the grocery store about a week ago, he saw a few people in masks, gloves and some wearing swim goggles.

The epidemic has revived memories of the SARS outbreak that originated in China in 2003 and killed nearly 800 people. Chinese authorities were criticized for reacting slowly and failing to disclose information.

Duplessis, who has lived in Asia since 1996 and was in China during SARS, said the cities weren't locked down then and it didn't seem as immediate.

"We moved around relatively freely. We still gathered together," he said. "There wasn't isolation as there is now."

But credit cards, electronic money and the internet have helped people "effectively still be in contact with everyone," he said.

"That has reduced the isolation or at least the feeling of isolation if not the cabin fever."



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