Three years later Wuhan has turned the page on COVID

Three years later, Wuhan has turned the page on COVID

“We are no longer afraid!”: Wuhan residents declare on Monday that they have resumed a completely normal life, three years after the start of the city’s traumatic lockdown that signaled the start of the pandemic.

The 11 million metropolis in central China was hit by a then unknown virus at the end of 2019, which led to pneumonia in a growing number of residents.

On January 23, 2020, authorities ordered the city to be shut down to stop the epidemic. The virus would cause millions of deaths on the planet and cripple the global economy.

But life has since resumed in most countries. And after three years of detention, mandatory quarantines and examinations, China lifted almost all of its health restrictions in December.

On Monday, nothing reminds Wuhan of the apocalyptic atmosphere of 2020. Despite the icy wind, residents use the Lunar New Year holiday to go to the markets or stroll along the Yangtze River.

Retirees indulge in a bit of stretching, while some Wuhanese fly kites in slightly foggy weather.

“Of course, the new year that is beginning will be better. We’re not afraid of the virus anymore!” Yan Dongju, a maintenance worker in her 60s, told AFP.

The House of Hope»

A little further on, a young food delivery man on a scooter nods.

“Everyone has returned to normal life. People get together with family, with friends, go out for fun, travel… They’ve found their smiles again,” Liang Feicheng told AFP between orders.

“The worries and fears that we might have had have subsided,” he says, equipped with glasses and a face mask to protect himself from the freezing cold.

The January 2020 curfew, announced in the middle of the night and enforced a few hours later, took residents by surprise.

And the rest of the world, eyes glued to the streaming news channels, watched anxiously in real time as the outbreak of what would become a global epidemic.

Train stations and airports closed, roads blocked, means of transport halted, and shops padlocked: For 76 days, Wuhan was cut off from the world, residents holed up in their homes, and hospitals were overflowing with patients.

But the chaos of January 2020 is now far away.

Outside a store where AFP had snapped a photo of a dead man on a sidewalk, the name of a school now installed in the building (“The House of Hope”) appears to wink at fate.

market closed

The former location of the Huanan Seafood Market, once suspected to be the epicenter of the contamination, closed permanently in 2020.

As of Monday, large sky-blue cordons still surrounded the disused complex, where a police car was parked outside, AFP noted.

China, long considered a sanctuary of health peace due to draconian measures against the virus, has faced its most significant epidemic in recent weeks.

About 80% of China’s population has contracted Covid since health restrictions were lifted in December, according to epidemiologist Wu Zunyou, a figure in his country’s fight against the virus.

China reported at least 13,000 additional deaths “related to COVID-19” this weekend between January 13 and 19.

That number, which only affects deaths reported in hospitals, comes on top of the roughly 60,000 deaths since December previously announced by authorities.

With a population of 1.4 billion, this assessment is undoubtedly underestimated, while many hospitals and crematoria in the country still appear overwhelmed.