People are fighting over food, picking used face masks from bins to resell them, inflating prices of everyday products and even spitting on each other.

This is how a New Zealand man living in China has described his reality, saying the China we see on the internet is far from the truth.

More than 200 people are dead after the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, and panic has spread worldwide.

READ MORE:
NZ tourism braces for massive impact of coronavirus
Kiwis to be rescued from Wuhan will be charged $500
Suspected first case of coronavirus found in Auckland

Advertisement

The New Zealand man lives in northeast China with his wife and two children and says they are barely getting by.

"It's getting worse by the day ... everything has fallen apart here," the man, who asked for anonymity out of fear of his family's safety, said.

Pedestrians wearing masks walk on Nanjing East Rd in Shanghai. Photo / Bloomberg
Pedestrians wearing masks walk on Nanjing East Rd in Shanghai. Photo / Bloomberg

An Australian woman living in Xi'an, central China and much closer to Wuhan, says the situation is much calmer where she is.

They were also on lock down and encouraged to stay indoors. Businesses were closed and the streets mostly empty. She said of the man's claims that she had "not experienced nor heard of such behaviour anywhere in China".

"Fear levels are high and there is a lot of conflicting information, but people are staying calm," she told the Herald.

Government officials had been very informative, and there were no shortages of supplies where she was.

People across the country are being encouraged to stay indoors at all times and to only go outside when necessary.

Face masks should be worn outside at all times.

Advertisement

In some places, masks are reportedly few and far between and might not be clean.

Once available to be bought for as little as 10 cents, the New Zealand man toldf the Herald people had been selling masks for as much as $50.

"I see old ladies walking around picking face masks out of the trash and then they sell them on the street the next day laughing about it," he said.

"When China says they've got enough and they're handing them out, they're not, I can tell you that now - there's none available anywhere."

To make them appear new, the women would iron them after plucking the masks from the bin, the man said.

As a foreigner, he said he had always experienced discrimination while living in China but amid the coronavirus scare, matters had become worse.

It's thought foreigners did not deserve the right to fresh food and now the man won't even attempt to go shopping at a supermarket, he said.

Getting fresh produce was a challenge for everyone at the moment, he said, and fights were often breaking out over things like eggs and vegetables.

Students line up to sanitise their hands to avoid the contact of coronavirus before school in Cambodia. Photo / AP
Students line up to sanitise their hands to avoid the contact of coronavirus before school in Cambodia. Photo / AP

To make matters worse, people were claiming to be infected and threatening to spit on others so they too will contract coronavirus, he claimed.

Meanwhile, despite the grim reality of life in China at the moment, there was little the man could do about changing his family's situation.

A consultant, the man said all his business for the year had dried up and his wife's business was not making any money either.

"No one is paying their bills, no one is paying you. My wife's [business] is losing money every day," he said.

"It'll run us broke to the point where if I come back to New Zealand with my kids I'll be homeless.

"We have no choice, it's either stay here or be homeless in New Zealand."

A family wearing face masks walk over a pedestrian crossing in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo / AP
A family wearing face masks walk over a pedestrian crossing in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo / AP

Even being able to leave China was far from the realm of possibility, he said.

The man had estimated it would take upwards of $20,000 to get everyone home, having already spent around $5000 attempting to fly to South Korea.

And while they had tickets purchased for the flight, they had always been overbooked and South Korean citizens always had priority over foreigners.

In New Zealand, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) operation was under way to try to rescue stranded New Zealanders from Wuhan.

However, the journey from the city where the man lives with his family to Wuhan was too far, the man said.

"I'd love to get my kids back to New Zealand [but] we can't get out of here," he said.

"I'm guessing there are thousands of foreigners stuck in this position with families; we're just riding time and seeing what's happening."

The man encouraged New Zealanders not to donate money directly to China, instead to help others trying to make a difference offshore.