Trapped HK mom fears they're 'waiting for death'

Top News | Cindy Wan 14 Feb 2020

A Hong Kong mother says her situation is getting desperate after missing three chances to grab her two young sons and get out of Hubei before it was locked down.

Ordered to stay indoors with food and medical supplies running low, the woman surnamed Fan - who is in her 30s - went to Huanggang city, Hubei, to visit her mother.

When authorities locked down Wuhan on January 23, Fan bought train tickets out of Huanggang hoping to leave the next day. But she didn't go after wrongly believing rumors that all trains had stopped.

"I was so mad at myself. The lockdown came all of a sudden and I was totally unprepared," she said, crying during a phone call with The Standard.

Fan said she earlier refused to heed the advice of her mother-in-law not to go to Hubei and that of her sister-in-law, who urged her to leave for Hong Kong on January 21.

Fan broke down while speaking to her husband and mother-in-law, who are both in Hong Kong, through a webcam. Fan and her boys - aged six and three - along with her brother are stranded in her mother's flat.

Her younger son's health also left Fan on tenterhooks as the boy, who has an airway allergy, caught a cold during the holiday.

He relies on flu medicines they brought from Hong Kong. The family refuses to bring him to a doctor in fear they might get infected with the coronavirus.

The flu worsened his allergy, which Fan said can be deadly without timely treatment and medication.

The boy's inhaler will run out in a week and she is not sure when the supply mailed by Fan's husband through the Department of Health will arrive.

"To be honest, there is little hope for survival if we are infected. We're just waiting for death here," Fan said.

Huanggang has become a ghost town, with public transport, retail shops and restaurants shut, she said.

Residents in suburban areas are digging holes near village entrances to prevent people from walking around and the government is blocking major roads with trucks loaded with soil.

Delivery companies can only drop mail at a collection point on a main highway connecting the city, and people need to walk for hours from their home to pick up the goods.

The local government sent only two volunteers to arrange grocery purchases for each district, which comprises around 1,000 families, Fan said. Residents have to fill up a form to buy daily necessities, then wait for the delivery to come in around two days.

"We ordered 30 eggs, and eventually there came only five. Disinfectants and alcohol-based cleaners were out of stock," she said. The family has to make do with lunch and dinner being one dish of fresh food a day.

"We were optimistic at the beginning, seeing Japanese and Koreans flying home on flights arranged by their governments," she said. "We thought the Hong Kong government would pick us up soon, but there is little hope now."

A survey by the Chinese Psychology Society found that 42.6 percent of 18,000 people have anxiety and 21.5 percent of 5,000 people could be suffering post traumatic stress disorder due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In response, the National Health Commission set up some 300 24-hour hotlines nationwide.

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