Your Thursday Briefing

Your Thursday Briefing

(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the , the Chinese city at the center of the coronavirus outbreak. Mike Ives, on the Briefings team, spoke with Javier via Slack, a messaging service.

Hi, Javier. What’s the mood in Wuhan right now?

Walking the streets, you definitely feel a sense of urgency is spreading. Lots of people are wearing masks and avoiding big crowds. All of this is happening in the midst of the Lunar New Year holiday, so it has forced many families to rethink their plans. People are canceling dinners, staying home from work and hunkering down.

It must be hard to avoid big crowds in a city of 11 million.

Yes, it’s almost impossible to avoid crowds in a modern Chinese city. But Wuhan is trying to push people to take more precautions. When you get in a cab now, there are reminders about opening the window and wearing a mask. Some of the famous street markets are totally empty, surrounded by signs warning about the virus.

Are you hearing any common sentiments in your interviews?

Several people told me about their memories of the SARS crisis of 2003, which killed hundreds of people in China. They’re worried this could erupt into a full-blown epidemic. Of course, others say they’re not very concerned and have faith that China can beat this. One common theme is people say they want the Chinese government to speak honestly about the severity of the outbreak — something that didn’t happen during SARS.

Are you taking any specific precautions, like wearing a mask?

Yes, at the advice of experts, my colleague Elsie Chen and I are washing our hands regularly and avoiding meat markets and hospital wards. We are wearing masks all the time. It’s a bit odd having that kind of barrier when you’re interviewing people on the street. But we’ve found that it is quickly becoming the norm in Wuhan. There are even videos now circulating of people giving New Year’s toasts with their masks on!

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris

Thank you
Mark Josephson, Eleanor Stanford and Chris Harcum provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at

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