By Jesús Centeno
Wuhan, China, Dec 28 (efe-epa).- The preventative measures enforced to curb the spread of Covid-19 are consigned to the memories of Wuhan residents a year after the first confirmed cases of coronavirus began to emerge in the Chinese city, but many questions remain as to how it grew into a pandemic that to this day has the world in its grips.
With no local cases of Covid-19 since mid-May, it is no longer necessary to provide a clean bill of health via a scannable QR code to access public transport in Hubei province in central China and obligatory mask use has gradually wound down since the draconian lockdowns of January this year.
CONSENSUS ON CONFINEMENT
The Wuhanese are getting ready to ring in 2021, an occasion that will also mark the anniversary of the 11-week city-wide confinement that was ordered to contain the coronavirus outbreak. For many in the city, the measure was the only way to stop the virus from spreading further.
“In the beginning, when we read the first news stories, we did not take it seriously. But when we learned that it spread between people, we started to understand what was happening and how terrible it could become,” Hong, a Wuhan retiree who now spends his days flying kites by the Yangtze River, tells Efe.
His facial expression changes when he recalls the most difficult moments of the lockdown.
The worst part, he says, was when relatives, co-workers and friends became infected without really knowing what was going on.
“In the end, whether it was a stranger or a family member was irrelevant, it spread either way, from one to the other without discrimination, and that’s why they took measures to control it.”
After 11 weeks of lockdown, and with virtually no new cases in the city, authorities began to lift restrictions in April.
As well as the draconian lockdown, Wuhan managed to get a handle on the situation thanks to the arrival of medical resources and personnel from other Chinese provinces, tough preventative measures and the express construction of field hospitals such as Leishenshan, which began to admit patients in February.
THE ORIGIN STORY, A TABOO
One young man who preferred not to give his name says many in Wuhan feel guilty for the fact that it was the first city to record cases of what at the time was being treated as a mysterious outbreak of pneumonia, although he adds that “hardly anyone talks about it.”
“In those days, in early 2020, many residents avoided the topic and many protected one another from knowing who had been infected,” he says.
He believes it would be “very difficult” to fully know what happened and how the pandemic started but says he is happy that, despite the odd outbreak, China has been able to keep the virus largely under control. The Asian giant has not reported a single Covid-related death since May.
The young man recalls the confusion that reigned in the early days of the outbreak and it was not until February that city authorities acknowledged that they had reacted late in providing clear information. They claimed this was because they needed permission from higher-ups.
He also avoided any comment on the news about citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, who on Monday was sentenced to four years in prison by a Shanghai court for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” concerning her coverage of the arrests of independent journalists in the early days of the pandemic and the alleged harassment by officials of family members Covid-19 victims.
According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an NGO, the reporter was detained several months ago for publishing stories alleging that officials had delivered rotten food to Wuhan residents during the lockdown and forced people to pay fees to take nucleic-acid tests.
The government line in the state press has pushed the narrative that the coronavirus outbreak could have been related to the import of frozen foods and may have originated in another country.
The government has, however, reiterated its willingness to host a delegation of World Health Organization investigators in Wuhan in January. The team hopes to gather more information on the origins of the pandemic.