Beijing waking up from its worst nightmare as spring arrives

By Javier García

Beijing, Mar. 27 (efe-epa).- The arrival of spring in Beijing has coincided with nearly two weeks of no fresh COVID-19 cases, helping the city wake up from its nearly two months long nightmare as children could be seen playing in the parks again and pedestrians returning to the streets in the backdrop of blossoming trees.

The battle against the pandemic has not been won yet and many restrictions remain in place, but people have begun to overcome the fears that had kept them confined to their homes for weeks.

Just as the seclusion came naturally to people when the disease spread, the revival along with the spring has proved to be a welcome relief for Beijing residents after seven weeks of lockdown.

“Many people have come out suddenly, I think spring has also helped, it is as if nature gave us a sign. The situation is much better than before,” 35-year-old Lily Cheng told EFE as she took a walk in the Ritan park, adding that she was happy to see people outdoors.

Lily, who is still worried about the cases arriving in China from abroad, was visibly upset about the effects of the pandemic across the world and wanted to share her experiences with the people still locked inside their homes.

“We spent a lot of time in home, you can be scared of getting bored, hence it is important to find something to do: you can read books or exercise. Practicing yoga proved to be best from me. I hope everything becomes fine around the world,” she said.

After nearly two weeks of being completely empty, the popular Ritan park has witnessed people returning to play badminton and ping pong, to dance and to practice taichi, a favorite in the country.

However, nobody is out without a mask, as the rare exceptions to this rule are immediately told to put it on.

Outside the park, many shops and restaurants are opening their doors and bicycles, motorcycles and cars have started to reclaim the streets, reshaping the maze that makes Beijing one of the most vibrant cities of the planet.

For the time being, this just a silhouette of the capital’s earlier bustle, and it could be long before the city returns to how it used to be and for people to walk around without worrying about the disease, which has so far claimed 3,292 lives across China.

The continuing checks and restrictions in the city remind residents about the ever-present threat of virus and nobody wants to let their guards down, although news such as the lifting of quarantine measures in Wuhan from Apr. 8 has been seen as a definitive sign that the situation is improving.

“The epidemic is nearly over, although we cannot get distracted. At least we can go out in the streets, but we must use masks still,” said Jeffrey Xing, a publicist standing in a queue outside an Apple shop while maintaining a safe distance from others.

The shop is one of very few with queues outside their door in the area, despite all the establishments following a strict check on entry and limiting the number of people allowed inside.

Restaurants continue to monitor body temperatures and only allow three people per table to ensure social distancing.

Jeffrey is convinced that the virus originated in Wuhan, rejecting theories – some espoused by China – that claim that it surfaced or was brought from outside the country.

“Viruses have a long history on this planet, there was (always) going to be a new virus here or there, it could have been in any part of the world. It’s not the fault of people of Wuhan, or of China, or anybody. We were here and it got us,” he said.

Along with commercial premises and restaurants, some tourist attractions such as part of the Great Wall and the Beijing Zoo have been opened, while others, like the Forbidden City, remain closed.

After a 59-day shutdown, animals in Beijing Zoo were doing well and some of them, “such as the pandas,” “enjoyed having more space to exercise when the zoo was closed,” Zhang Chenglin, the zoo’s deputy director told the state-run China Daily.

The zoo was disinfected and sanitized completely every week during the peak of the pandemic and the food for its 5,000 animals was checked carefully, Zhang said.

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