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THERE’S the old saying that when China sneezes, the world catches a cold. But these days the sneeze is rather serious – and the cold almost crippling in more ways than one.

Thanks to the deadly coronavirus, image after image of Chinese cities looking as if they’ve come from an apocalypse movie are beamed across the globe.

Streets and transport systems, usually packed and bustling with millions of people, are eerily empty and quiet. Factories, shops, schools, restaurants and theme parks have been shut down.

And all over the world’s most populous nation, citizens are hunkering down in their homes – many forced to do so by the authoritarian Chinese government.

Hubei, a landlocked province in central China – once a crowded hub of activity with connections to every part of the globe – is now the quarantined epicentre of the coronavirus, officially named COVID-19.

At the time of going to print 1 775 people in China had died, with five deaths outside mainland China – one each in Hong Kong, the

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