‘We’re not afraid anymore!’: Wuhan residents said on Monday they’ve returned to a completely normal life three years after the start of a traumatic confinement in the city that signaled the start of a pandemic.
The metropolis of 11 million people, located in central China, began to be affected by a then unknown virus at the end of 2019, which led to pneumonia in a growing number of residents.
On January 23, 2020, the authorities ordered the city to close down to stop the epidemic. The virus will claim millions of lives around the planet and wreak havoc on the global economy.
But since then, life has resumed in most countries. And China, after three years of lockdown, mandatory quarantines and multiple checks, lifted almost all of its medical restrictions in December.
In the evening, the facades of buildings that rise above the banks of the Yangtze River are lit up with colorful performances and fireworks explode to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Locals endure the cold with their families on the banks of the river, and a security guard struggles to keep tourists from indulging in an overnight cruise.
Others take advantage of the New Year holidays to sample snacks and local delicacies at Hubu Alley, Wuhan’s historic and popular artery lined with stalls and small restaurants.
– “House of Hope” –
“The new year that is starting will certainly be better. We are no longer afraid of the virus!” Yan Dongju, a sixty-year-old repairman, told AFP.
A little further on, a young ready-meal peddler on a scooter also wants to turn the page on the pandemic.
Wuhan’s imprisonment, followed by health restrictions in China for three years, “of course it was tough,” Liang Feicheng tells AFP, wearing a face mask to protect himself from the biting cold.
“If I said it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be true. It was a difficult time,” the courier said between the two orders.
The 2020 lockdown, announced in the middle of the night and enacted hours later, took residents by surprise.
And the rest of the world, keeping their eyes on the streaming news channels, anxiously watched in real time the beginning of what would later become a global epidemic.
Train stations and airports were closed, roads blocked, transport stopped, and businesses were closed: Wuhan was cut off from the world for 76 days, residents holed up in their homes, and hospitals were overwhelmed with patients.
But the chaos of early 2020 is far away.
In front of a store where the AFP agency photographed a dead man lying on the sidewalk, the name of the school now installed in the building (“La Maison de l’espoir”) seems to wink at fate.
– The market is closed –
Built in just 10 days at the end of January 2020, the vast grounds of Wuhan’s famous makeshift hospital are now abandoned, with a large poster at the entrance honoring those who worked to build it.
The former Huanan Market, once thought to be the epicenter of pollution, was permanently closed in 2020.
On Monday, large sky-blue barriers still surrounded the abandoned compound, in front of which a police car was parked, AFP notes.
China, long considered an oasis of health peace due to draconian measures against the virus, is facing its biggest spike in the epidemic in recent weeks.
According to epidemiologist Wu Zunyu, who is actively fighting the virus in his country, about 80% of the Chinese population became infected with Covid-19 after the lifting of health restrictions in December.
China reported at least 13,000 additional “Covid-19 related” deaths this weekend between January 13 and 19.
This figure, which only refers to deaths registered in hospitals, is in addition to the roughly 60,000 deaths since December previously announced by the authorities.
This estimate is undoubtedly an underestimate for a population of 1.4 billion inhabitants, while many hospitals and crematoria in the country still seem to be overwhelmed.