WARNING: Distressing content:

A grey-haired man lay dead on the pavement, plastic bag in hand, face mask on.

The cause of death and identity were unclear but the authorities in the Chinese city of Wuhan - ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak that the World Health Organisation has now classified as a global emergency - are not taking any chances.

As the occasional passer-by on the city's empty streets hurry past the grim scene, not daring to stop, a team of police, and medical staff in full body protection arrive to take the body away.Wuhan is in its tenth day of quarantine and this normally bustling city of 11 million people is a ghost town, full of fear.

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A cyclist rides past the body of the man. Photo / via video
A cyclist rides past the body of the man. Photo / via video

The population is stranded after rail and flight links were severed and private vehicles banned from the road.The government has advised all residents to remain indoors to minimise potential exposure to the virus as the number infected continues to multiply - last night there were 9,700 confirmed cases across every province in China.

The death toll has passed 200. However, people living in the city say they can't keep hiding: "Now I know how dogs must feel. When you're inside all the time you really do want to step outside to go around a bit," said Li Xiolei, a radio DJ in Wuhan, on his video blog. "People walk their dogs; well, I'm going to walk myself.

So Mr Li dons a face mask and leaves his apartment, stepping into an elevator that reeks of disinfectant. There are reminders of the peril he is in at every corner, including propaganda barriers that deliver grim warnings against group gatherings: "If you come to people's doors today, pneumonia will come to your door tomorrow," reads one.

"Those who come out and gather are shameless; those who play mah-jong together are villains," proclaims another. Chinese authorities are trying to curb the spread by sealing off the most heavily affected parts of the country.

But experts have said it may be too little, too late. Many people have already travelled, ahead of New Year holidays. When the shutdown in Wuhan began a week ago, residents stocked up at the supermarkets and cleared the shelves of face masks and disinfectants of every kind.

Funeral workers disinfect themselves after handling a virus victim in Wuhan. Photo / AP
Funeral workers disinfect themselves after handling a virus victim in Wuhan. Photo / AP

Mr Li joined the dash last Saturday, posting on social media a clip of his rare trip outdoors.Now shelves are bare. Pharmacies tape "out-of-stock" signs on their doors and public areas are doused in disinfectant - even in the capital, Beijing, 700 miles away. Gyms are shut and those that remain open require a fever check at the entrance.

Understandably, tensions are running high at health facilities in the city. One doctor was attacked by the family of a patient infected with coronavirus at a Wuhan hospital, said Beijing-based online media firm Caixin.

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According to a Wuhan police statement, a man had become emotional after his father-in-law died, hitting staff, damaging their face masks and hazmat suits. Some social media reports suggested the staff had been quarantined after the attack, although police just merely said the incident had "affected the operations of the hospital". The attacker was arrested.

A woman wears a protective mask while walking the streets in Wuhan, China. Photo / Getty Images
A woman wears a protective mask while walking the streets in Wuhan, China. Photo / Getty Images

There are shortages of medical supplies and protective equipment, a nurse told Caixin as the shutdown across vast swathes of the country continued. Thousands of factory workers on Lunar New Year holidays may struggle to get back to work next week due to the travel restrictions. Major firms, such as Alphabet Inc's Google and Sweden's IKEA have closed China operations.

 Shoppers wear face masks as they line up at a grocery store in Wuhan. Photo / AP
Shoppers wear face masks as they line up at a grocery store in Wuhan. Photo / AP

Four Chinese provinces, including Shandong and Heilongjiang in the industrial rust-belt region, have asked companies not to start work before Feb 10. China plans to release winter and spring vegetable reserves in the major northern cities to ease the shortages of supplies, the state news agency Xinhua reported.

The coronavirus is believed to have originated late last year in a food market in Wuhan that was allegedly selling wildlife illegally.