Wuhan breathes again after months of coronavirus suffocation

Javier Triana

Beijing, Aug 30 (efe-epa).- From coronavirus epicenter to envy of the world: Wuhan, the Chinese city where Covid-19 was first detected, these days is projecting an image of normality that has provoked incredulity, jealousy and admiration, three months after imposing draconian lockdown measures.

Images published by state media show normal life appears to have largely returned to the capital of Hubei province, where even in enclosed public spaces mask use is on the wane, at the same time that the virus continues to ravage most of the planet.

Crowded restaurants, shopping centers in full swing, jam-packed city center streets and even a nightclub full of mask-free people bopping to electronic music are giving the impression of a return to normality for the residents of Wuhan.

It is a far cry from late January when the world’s first coronavirus lockdown and the confinement of an entire city was ordered, which was not lifted until nearly three months later, in April.

“It was like a nightmare, but we are waking up now,” one Wuhan resident, who prefers to remain anonymous, tells Efe.

“Only a few people are wearing masks here,” he continues. “On the metro some are still wearing masks. In other places, hardly anyone” is wearing them.

To get to this point, the city that suffered 3,869 deaths out of the 4,634 total nationwide was submitted to a draconian quarantine that was imposed against a backdrop of early ignorance of the virus and the heavy censorship and suppression of people’s movements.

For the first several weeks, only people providing essential services were authorized to leave their homes, with public transport shut down.

Only one person per household was allowed to leave home for one hour each day to stock up on food and medicine, and wearing face masks was made compulsory once it was confirmed that the virus was transmitted through aerosols.

Tracking applications soon became the norm, as did online orders with contact-free home deliveries.

Months later, after little to no local transmissions for weeks, officials have seen those aggressive tactics vindicated.

For the nationalist state-run daily the Global Times, “China’s experience in its epidemic response and effective measures make Wuhan the safest place in the world now.”

It is therefore no surprise that the school year is gearing up to start again next week, with classes slated to resume on Tuesday for the city’s 1.4 million primary, secondary and nursery school students.

Wuhan’s education department deputy director, Wang Chifu, told a press conference this week that “students do not need to wear face masks on campus but should carry them just in case.”

Officials have recommended their use on students’ journeys to and from school, and have advised against using public transport to avoid crowds and ensure social distancing where possible.

“It’s good to return to the classroom,” says second year undergraduate Zhu Chengkang, according to China Daily. “Although we have been taking online courses for months, it’s not the same as person-to-person teaching.”

The relief and relative return to normality in Wuhan is starting to be felt across the rest of the country.

Official figures show that China has gone 14 days in a row without any local infections and the northwestern region of Xinjiang, the scene of one of the latest outbreaks, lowered its public health emergency alert on Saturday. EFE-EPA


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