China covering up number of NCoV dead: Stranded UK teacher

London, Feb 1
A British teacher, who is stranded in the Chinese city of Wuhan which is the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, has said that authorities in the Asian giant were covering up the actual number of fatalities due to the disease, a media report said.

Tom Ellender, 37, failed to register with the UK consulate in time to secure himself a seat on the chartered plane carrying 83 Britons back to the UK, the Metro newspaper said in the report on Friday.

He was now "running low" on face masks and told the Metro daily that he "doesn't know what is going to happen" next to the others still stuck there.

In a response to the growing health emergency, the Chinese authorities have imposed a lockdown on Wuhan's 11 million residents and severe travel curbs on other cities in Hubei province.

The rapid quarantine, at a time when the infection numbers were still relatively low, sparked fears the government was covering up the true extent of the crisis.

"Of course they have (covered it up). The Wuhan mayor's head rolled to help conceal everything," Ellender told the newspaper.

"I have no idea what the real figures are but there was talk about a potential outbreak all the way back in early December I think.

"There's no way of knowing what the real figures are in China. Plus only 'confirmed' cases are being mentioned. There must be many more unconfirmed cases," he added.

With Wuhan and much of Hubei still under confinement, Ellender told the Metro that the bustling city he first moved to now looks "like a wasteland".

"Everywhere is just completely empty and deserted. Every single shop, shopping mall and restaurant was shut. Public transport had come to a complete halt. It was incredibly sombre."

Ellender has launched a Gofundme page to get himself back to the UK and back on his feet.

As of Saturday morning, China has confirmed 259 deaths, with 11,791 infected cases.

As the Chinese government scrambles to contain the outbreak, the contagion has spread to all of the country's 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, as well as to at least 22 other countries.

More than 120 people outside China have been diagnosed with the potentially deadly virus.

The World Health Emergency has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.