Getting to Wuhan: an odyssey of bureaucracy, misgivings and uncertainty

By Jesús Centeno

Wuhan, China, Mar 30 (efe-epa).- Traveling to Wuhan today means going through an odyssey of uncertainties, bureaucratic traps and the misgivings for its own residents, who do not fully understand why foreigners would want to enter the city when everyone there is waiting to leave.

Since Saturday, it is possible to get from Beijing to the epicenter of the outbreak by train, although it will not be possible to leave it until Apr. 8, when the strict quarantine imposed in the city since more than two months ago will be lifted.

It will be the moment Wuhan residents can leave the city, although they can already roam the streets if they’re in good health.

The bullet trains that complete the journey in little more than four hours (1,151 kilometers separate both cities) circulate practically empty and control and prevention measures are constant on board the wagons and at the railway stations themselves.

“Where did you come from? And what will you do there? When did you enter China? Show me your passport,” a uniformed guard asked this reporter and called a superior to verify the data while looking at the document with suspicion.

But the uncertainty surrounding the trip begins while consulting relevant authorities about what documents will be necessary to enter, stay and move around the city.

Policies issued by the authorities are contradictory and only coincide in one aspect: it seems necessary to show a green mobile QR code or medical proof that a quarantine has been carried out in another Chinese city, which may be paradoxical, given that many of them have not undergone isolation policies such as those applied in Wuhan.

Not having undergone quarantined prevents receiving the green code in Beijing – even if travelers last entered the capital several months ago – and to obtain a receipt, travelers undergo a bureaucratic tangle that may or may not lead to receiving a document that isn’t guaranteed to be valid in Wuhan.

Some hotels, in fact, cancel reservation despite having confirmed them a few minutes earlier, fueling suspicions that the city is not yet ready to admit foreigners.

As in other Chinese cities, many in Wuhan fear foreigners aren’t taking the measures they consider appropriate to protect themselves from the coronavirus, such as always wearing a mask or maintaining a safe distance from other people.

The virus hit Wuhan with particular strength at the beginning, before the central government issued a measure considered drastic at the time: strict quarantines for everyone and a ban on leaving the city.

At the city’s train station, this reporter tried to use the subway with the document obtained in Beijing but without the local green QR code, since foreigners cannot acquire it.

Wuhan’s suburban workers did not quite understand why a foreigner wanted to visit the city when everyone wants the freedom to leave.

One called a superior, a habitual practice in the country, who nodded thoughtfully after consulting official documents and allowed the metro journey to continue to the hotel.

There, expecting the arrival, people were more understanding: the receptionist observed the document, smiled inwardly and agreed to the reservation after informing on the rules: mandatory disinfection when entering the hotel, temperature readings throughout the day and limited services.

Unsurprisingly, few are now staying on the premises and few use public transport, some because they do not yet have permits to leave, others convinced that perhaps it is better to wait a while for the situation to stabilize and feel more secure. EFE-EPA


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