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Social media users document life in China amid coronavirus lockdowns

Video circulated online appears to show roadblocks, signs discouraging travel in rural China and even an apartment being barricaded by authorities.
Image: The official Weibo page for Wuhan Central Hospital posted a photo on January 22 appearing to show medical staff in hazmat suits making a sign of resolve.
Wuhan Central Hospital posted a photo to its Weibo page on Jan. 22 showing medical staff in hazmat suits.The Central Hospital Of Wuhan/Weibo

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By Suzanne Ciechalski, Jareen Imam and Caitlin Fichtel

It’s been more than a week since the city of Wuhan in China was put on lockdown because of the coronavirus outbreak. The virus has continued to spread, with almost 9,700 confirmed cases in China alone. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global public health emergency on Thursday.

Chinese officials have been working to contain the spread of the virus by restricting transportation in cities surrounding Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and increasing the number of medical staff and supplies being sent to the city. More than 190 Americans have been evacuated from the area, with more flights on the way.

Video circulated online appears to show roadblocks, signs discouraging travel in rural China and even an apartment being barricaded by authorities. NBC News’ Social Newsgathering team has verified several of these social media posts, which appear to show what life is like in and around Wuhan as officials work to combat the spread of the illness.

One video, posted to Twitter on Jan. 23, appears to show a road closure on an expressway near Wuhan, China. Viewers can see workers in the video who appear to be wearing masks and hazard outfits.

A separate video, also shared on Twitter on Jan. 23, appears to show guards outside a railway station in Wuhan blocking people from entering.

Photos posted to social media appear to show signs and roadblocks in rural areas in provinces outside Wuhan discouraging travel. One photo shows a sign propped against a makeshift roadblock made from a felled tree: “Going in and out is forbidden. No visiting friends or family for the New Year.”

A sign warns residents of a rural settlement near Wuhan against leaving to visit friends or family during the Lunar New Year.

“The worst thing right now is that we don’t have any information,” Diana Adama, an American who has lived in China for years and recently moved to Wuhan, told NBC News in a recent phone interview. “There are people volunteering to take doctors and nurses to the hospitals.”

Adama said that Wuhan had been on a strict lockdown, and that she’s been using Twitter to plead for help.

“I don’t think the doctors are prepared here. I have lived here for 15 years and I have wondered before what’s going to happen if there was some type of outbreak,” she said.

Images posted to Wuhan Central Hospital’s official Weibo page on Jan. 22 showed medical staff wearing hazmat suits throughout the hospital.

Medical staff of Wuhan Central Hospital in China tend to patients in the respiratory and critical care ward.Central Hospital of Wuhan

Some videos posted online even appear to show authorities barricading an apartment in China.

Samuel Roth, an American whose wife is from Wuhan, is visiting the city with their two daughters. Roth said the family was anxious about the outbreak before the trip, but thought it would pass given how long they were staying. Now, he’s working to get his family evacuated.

“The fear comes and goes,” Roth said. “I mean, sometimes I'll look at the headlines and get really scared and think, what have I done, my children are there.”

The death toll from the coronavirus in China rose to 213 this week. Six cases have been confirmed in the U.S., and the State Department on Thursday issued a warning to Americans not to travel to China.

Janine Phakdeetham, Caroline Radnofsky, Shamar Walters, Rima Abdelkader, Ali Gostanian, Mohammed Syed and Sarah Kaufman contributed.