- The city of Wuhan lifted its strict lockdown measures at midnight on Wednesday, ending some ten weeks of coronavirus self-isolation.
- Highway tolls have reopened, while train, bus, and flights services resumed.
- People are allowed to use public transport and go back to work provided they have permission from the government’s color-coded smartphone health system.
- But Chinese authorities and health experts are still concerned about reinfection and have warned people to still be cautious.
- Scroll down to see images of the 11 million-strong city slowly returning to normal life.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Wuhan, the Chinese city where the first coronavirus case was recorded last December, has lifted its 76-day lockdown measures.
As of Wednesday midnight local time, millions of people are able to leave the confines of their homes once more, with public transport resuming and workplaces opening.
While some cooped-up residents said they felt “liberated” once again, many others were left traumatized and fearful from the lockdown. Health experts also worry that there will be a new spike in infections.
Scroll down to see photos the city returning to normal.
After 76 days of stringent lockdown, Wuhan — the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak — lifted its restrictions.
The city of 11 million people, which has been on lockdown since January 23, experienced one of the most extensive quarantine restrictions in the world.
For more than two months, it suspended all public transport, shut down its businesses, and banned people from entering and leaving the city.
Only one person per household was allowed to leave their homes to buy food or medicine every 72 hours.
The first case of coronavirus was recorded in Wuhan in December.
The moment was celebrated with a midnight light show on Wednesday, which projected faces of health workers, police officers, and military troops on the city’s skyscrapers and bridges.
— Rajeshkumar Chinnapp (@rajeshchennapa) April 8, 2020
People also posted their hourly countdowns to midnight and shared their lockdown “achievements,” The Guardian reported.
According to the newspaper, one person wrote on microblogging site Weibo: “Achievements during the lockdown: lost 10 kg, read two books, tried a haircut I would never have dared, slept eight hours every day. Next stage: lose more weight, get into the mindset of returning to society.”
The lift on lockdown measures means that highways reopened…
… train services resumed…
…and flights started leaving the city again.
Though there’s only limited air service so far, 200 flights were scheduled to depart Wuhan on Wednesday, carrying out 10,000 passengers, the BBC reported.
Meanwhile, the city’s railway authority estimated that more than 55,000 passengers will leave by train on Wednesday alone, CNN reported, citing state broadcaster CCTV.
People will also be able to start using public transport again, provided they show authorities a government-issued “health code” that shows how healthy they are.
Local authorities, including those in Wuhan, are trying to prevent further spread of the coronavirus by making them fill out a health questionnaire on their WeChat or Alipay apps, then giving them a colored health code – either in green, yellow, or red – that dictates how far they can travel.
Officials manning various checkpoints across the country are checking people’s health apps to see where they are allowed to go. Anyone with a green code is free to travel.
Some of the city’s once-deserted streets were once again full of cars as many people rushed to leave. Pictures showed hundreds of cars at some highway tolls waiting to leave the city, while other travelers formed long lines outside major transport hubs.
Photos showed long lines at Wuhan’s train stations and Tianhe International Airport.
Chinese authorities and health experts have urged the public to continue to be cautious and practice good hygiene. And Wuhan residents are still wearing masks in public and washing their hands regularly.
Checkpoints have been set up everywhere from airports, train stations, to the city’s streets.
Officials at some checkpoints are still screening people’s temperatures.
Public places like restaurants, cinemas, and shopping malls have been thoroughly disinfected so people can start using them again.
Some people are going back to work, but require a health check and a letter from their employers to do so.
Meanwhile, health workers who traveled from around the country to Wuhan to help with the outbreak got to return home, with some farewells proving to be very emotional.
But some limits remain. Schools have yet to reopen, and 45 residential communities are still on lockdown after local authorities detected asymptomatic residents. Some businesses that were crippled from the outbreak also haven’t reopened.
While many residents were overjoyed to be able to move around again, with one man saying he felt “liberated.”
Zhang Kaizhong, a Wuhan resident who was traveling to the neighboring province of Jiangsu by car, told The Guardian: “It’s like being liberated.”
Zhang said he hadn’t seen his wife in more than two months, as she wasn’t in Wuhan during the lockdown. “I miss her very much,” he said. “Of course I am very excited.”
But many others have been left traumatized by the lockdown, and still fear leaving the house.
Gao Jing, a Wuhan resident, told Reuters: “When I heard about the lifting of the lockdown, I didn’t feel particularly happy.”
“I actually felt very anxious. There are many issues that we are not sure can be resolved: employment, will patients continue to experience long-term effects, and for those who died, how will we remember them?” she said.
Kuang Li, an English teacher who has been asked to go back to work, also told Reuters: “Personally I’m still scared of the virus, and I feel that the outdoors still isn’t safe.”
Wuhan’s reopening came one day after China reported zero deaths from the coronavirus — the first time since it publicly released figures in January.
As infections in Wuhan started dropping in mid-March, Chinese President Xi Jinping had visited the city and praised its people for being “heroic.”
But health experts have also warned that coronavirus cases could spike again and worry that people will get reinfected.
Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention told the state-run Global Times: “China is not near the end, but has entered a new stage. With the global epidemic raging, China has not reached the end.”
“After work and production resumed, the movement of people increased and so did the risk of cross-infections from mass gatherings,” Luo Ping, an epidemic-control official in Wuhan, also told state broadcaster CCTV, according to CNN. “Some residents have dropped their guard and don’t wear masks when they go on the streets.”
More than 2,500 people in the city have died from the virus. Last week, Wuhan residents joined a three-minute national silence for all those who succumbed to the disease.
Source: Business Insider