Wuhan, China, Jan 1 (efe-epa).- A couple walked along a crowded pedestrian street and could not believe their eyes: Wuhan, the city where Covid-19 began to spread and the one that experienced the first lockdown, was celebrating en masse the arrival of the new year, almost as if nothing had happened.
From early afternoon, floods of people crowded the subway to reach the pedestrian street of Jianghan, the scene of a gathering that even surprised the residents themselves.
“I haven’t seen so many people together for years, it’s very exciting to see Wuhan like this,” said the young Yao, who was walking with his girlfriend along that commercial street, where you could see lines of people waiting to get into stores and restaurants.
Most were young and not afraid of getting infected — Wuhan has not reported a locally transmitted case since mid-May — and are “eager to make up for lost time,” added the smiling girl, Wu, wearing a pair of bunny ears.
There are those, like Leng, a university student, who wanted to clarify that the city of 11 million people did not want to rub the images of the multitudinous celebrations in the faces of those who are still suffering from the pandemic: “That we can go out today to celebrate does not mean that we are not in solidarity with everyone else.”
Wuhan is one of the very major cities to hold New Year’s Eve celebrations this year, with most other urban centres bringing in 2021 in much more muted fashion.
Leng was one of the thousands of citizens who came to the central Jianghan square to gather in front of the clock at the Hankou building and participate in the countdown to the end of 2020.
“We have the right to enjoy ourselves,” added the young man, who despite the normalcy of the day still has in mind the havoc caused by Covid or the world’s first strict lockdown, which began at the end of January and lasted 11 weeks. “If you told me at the end of February that we would be like this today, I wouldn’t believe it,” he said.
Five, four, three, two, one … the thousands of people gathered in the square loudly counted each second until midnight.
Then, the attendees congratulated each other and released in unison thousands of balloons with different shapes and colors — mostly hearts — to bring in 2021 and finally leave 2020 behind.
CLUBS SOLD OUT
After the stroke of midnight, the Wuhanese embraced each other and took the compulsory selfies for social media. For some, it was the end of the night, but for others the partying had just begun: some night clubs were already sold out.
At the luxurious Han club, hundreds of people danced — some with masks, others without — to electronic music until the early hours of the morning.
In other bars, people tolerated the din of the karaoke bars, but “at least they give shelter to all those who resist going home now,” said another young man, who laughed and said he believes that this year’s celebrations were necessary.
“I know that they have been banned in many places this year. All our solidarity. But many sacrifices have been made here. The country has practically closed its borders. There is no choice but to accept that your movements are being tracked. It’s supposed to avoid contagion. And here the lockdown was… you couldn’t even leave the city,” he said.
He added that his impression is that “other countries have not applied preventive measures against Covid in as strict a way as China”.
It is a far cry from last January, when Wuhan registered dozens of daily cases of a new “mysterious pneumonia” that would end up causing 3,869 deaths in the city, according to official statistics.
To prevent Covid from continuing to wreak havoc, the authorities imposed an unprecedented and strict lockdown on January 23 that lasted 11 weeks.