All public transportation in and out of the Chinese city of Wuhan, including trains, buses and ferries, stopped at 10am on Thursday as the central government imposed a quarantine to try to contain the spread of a coronavirus that has killed 17 people and infected hundreds more.
Local residents had rushed to railway stations and the airport after the announcement of the lockdown on Wednesday night.
The government told residents not to leave the city without "special reasons."
The lockdown came as the number of people confirmed to be infected on the mainland reached 583, with 17 deaths, as of publishing, according to China's National Health Commission.
The southern province of Guangdong, bordering Hong Kong, had reported six new infections, taking its confirmed total to 32, according to the People's Daily.
Wuhan railway station was packed with passengers at 7am on Thursday before stations were closed, but not all of them wanted to escape from the city.
Zhang, a 61-year-old man from Wuhan, was making a business trip to Tianjin and planned to return on Friday. He said he was afraid of the possibility of spreading the virus, and thought the authorities should have taken preventive measures earlier.
"The Wuhan government said they started using temperature screening equipment last week, but when I went through the entrance, I didn't see any of those," he said. "No one checked my temperature."
On a high-speed train from Wuhan to Dalian, in northeast China, almost all passengers leaving Wuhan were wearing surgical masks.
But many passengers boarding the train two hours later, old and young, were not. One, a man in his 60s, said he had never heard of the coronavirus or any advice to wear a mask.
Other cities had stepped up precautions. In Handan, a city about 500 miles from Wuhan with a population of 9 million, medical personnel were taking passengers' temperature at the station exit.
Later on Thursday, Wang Wei, a professor at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, had to abandon his plan to spend Lunar New Year in his hometown of Suizhou, about 100 miles away.
"I can't leave even if I want to," Wang said. "I bought lots of groceries yesterday, enough for several days, to remove the necessity to go out."
According to state broadcaster CCTV, 18 highways into Wuhan were closed at noon.
Earlier, medical personnel had been stationed at toll gates and stops on major highways to perform checks on people leaving the city.
A resident surnamed Ding who was driving out of Wuhan said the outward lanes were jammed, with very few vehicles heading into the city.
"Many want to leave," he said. "There are medics screening each car, checking the temperature of all passengers. People are allowed to leave, but the traffic is moving slowly because of the screenings."
Wuhan's culture and tourism bureau has canceled all visiting tour groups, and ordered tour agencies to offer refunds.
Outbound tours from Wuhan were scrapped on Tuesday, while various travel booking platforms and airlines have offered refunds, cancellations and rescheduling to travelers.
'We need medical supplies'
A Wuhan resident surnamed Yu was staying at home to avoid exposure to the virus.
"Nobody was ready for the lockdown," she said. "I went to the supermarket this morning, many people were there and vegetables were all sold out. But the biggest problem for Wuhan is not daily necessities " it is medical treatment.
"We are severely short of medical resources. Doctors are on duty 24 hours a day, living in hospitals, including my classmate. He keeps saying the protection gear even for frontline doctors is not enough.
"Many medical workers have fallen sick. The official number of 15 infected is definitely not right. I think the government knows the problem but it cannot take action quickly. What we need now is speed.
"When we saw the lockdown notice last night, we all cried."
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said it had arranged for 10,000 protective suits and 50,000 gloves to be sent to Wuhan from the central medical reserves, newspaper Securities Times reported.
Chinese pharmaceutical firms were ramping up production of surgical masks in response to mass panic-buying of medical protective gear nationwide, Hubei Daily reported on Wednesday.
An employee of Jointown Pharmaceutical Group was quoted as saying that more than 500,000 masks had been released onto the market on Tuesday, with the vast majority shipped to Wuhan, and that Wednesday's shipment would be double that number.
They said the company had sufficient stocks of Tamiflu, the antiviral influenza medication.
The transport disruption forced families to reconsider their plans for Lunar New Year.
Chen Yan, a 35-year-old IT worker who had arrived in Wuhan with his wife and five-year-old son to spend the holiday with his parents, decided to drive home from the city late on Wednesday night, but his parents preferred to stay.
"I felt things were deteriorating quickly," he said. "But my parents didn't want to leave despite our efforts to persuade them.
My mom wanted to stay at home like every past Chinese New Year, so we had a dinner together on Wednesday. I cried when I hugged my mum before I drove out."
All movie theaters in Wuhan were temporarily closed, according to a report by 21st Century Business Herald.
Earlier, it was announced that all seven Chinese films due to be released during Lunar New Year, known as a golden period for China's box offices, would be delayed because of the risk of spreading the coronavirus. The films included Legend of Deification, Lost in Russia and Leap.
It was also reported that cinemas in Shanghai and Hangzhou, on the coast, were flooded with requests to refund tickets.
On Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee announced it had canceled an Olympic boxing qualifying event in Wuhan next month because of the outbreak.
It had previously relocated women's football qualifying matches from Wuhan to Nanjing.
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