Wang Yanhong and his wife enjoyed a lonely New Year in an apartment amidst pneumonia, but still felt lucky to be healthy.

Wang Yanhong and her husband prepare a New Year's Eve party to welcome New Year's Eve on the evening of January 24, but this year the apartment in Wuhan has been absent from 25-year-old son Andy. Andy welcomes New Year's Eve at an apartment in Hangzhou, 750 km away, where he works.


Wang and his wife have a tray of rice on the night of January 24 Photo: AFP

The New Year holiday is often a reunion for families across China, but an outbreak of pneumonia caused by a new strain of the Corona family (nCoV) has affected this tradition. Wuhan is imposing a blockade, all flights and trains cannot leave the city. Authorities also asked people to stay home, avoiding crowding to prevent the spread of the disease.

Even so, the 53-year-old couple is still preparing for the year-end party. Her husband Pen Lixin has been in the kitchen since the morning to cook traditional dishes. A bottle of red wine appears on the dining table but is not opened by the only person in the house who can drink alcohol is Andy.

"I am very happy to have visitors," Wang said, speaking to AFP reporters. The apartment does not have heating, the couple always ensures ventilation in the house, although this will keep the indoor temperature low. "I clean, disinfect the apartment and open the window every morning," Wang said.

Wang and his wife also had to cancel plans to meet friends at a restaurant on New Year's Day. "Of course I am very sad, but will have to overcome that," Pen said, saying they had hoarded enough food and supplies for the New Year before the city imposed a blockade.

Not only Wuhan residents suffer from verb conjugation. Another 17 cities in Hubei Province also imposed a travel ban to prevent the spread of the virus, leaving about 56 million people affected.

A series of festivals have also been canceled, and many major entertainment venues in China are closed. Wuhan City this year does not hold a ceremony to pray for the God of Fortune which attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every Lunar New Year.

Despite difficulties due to the disease, the couple still proved strong to celebrate the new year. "Whether our son is here or not, it is important that the whole family is healthy. We are really lucky," Wang said.

Epidemic pneumonia caused by nCoV first appeared in Wuhan City, capital of Hubei Province. The source of the new strain of the virus is thought to be from wildlife in a seafood market. Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, and cough. Outside of China, outbreaks have occurred in Thailand, Japan, Korea, the USA, Singapore, Nepal, France and Vietnam.

The National Health Commission of China confirmed that 41 people died from pneumonia out of a total of 1,287 nCoV infections detected as of yesterday.