– Cars are back on city streets and shoppers are strolling in malls again as
life slowly returns to Wuhan. But the cradle of the global coronavirus pandemic
remains under the shadow of the contagion.
The city of 11 million people – along
with tens of millions more throughout the rest of Hubei province – was locked
down in late January in an unprecedented and ultimately failed bid to contain
Hubei and its provincial capital
Wuhan have accounted for the majority of China’s officially reported 3 322
coronavirus deaths and 81 620 overall cases.
But with new infections now
virtually nil – according to the much-questioned Chinese government figures – authorities
have begun loosening restrictions on movement within the city and easing its
isolation from the rest of the country.
As a result, Wuhan is stirring
AFP pictures and video, shot at
the lockdown’s height in late January and again this week after curbs began to
ease, tell the story.
Then: eerily silent and empty
streetscapes, closed shops, residents frantically stocking up on food and
medicines, pervasive fear.
‘It feels great’
Now: light yet growing road
traffic, commerce sputtering back to life, and citizens ready to plan for the
“If we don’t keep striving,
what else in this world is worth striving for?” said Waiwai, owner of a
small cafe which reopened on Sunday but for take-out only, owing to physical distancing
But with China now on guard
against a return wave of overseas coronavirus infections, Wuhan authorities on
Friday made clear that business-as-usual would not be returning anytime soon.
A government notice said
re-opening the city brings the risk of infections from beyond its perimeter and
that the health crisis remained “severe”.
It instructed authorities to
maintain many tight controls on movement, limits on gatherings, mask-wearing
and other measures, and avoid any “slackening”.
“There’s definitely still
some risk. People entering from outside the city will probably include some
cases imported from overseas,” said Bian, a 26-year-old supplier of food
to hotels, who declined to give his full name.
But, out strolling with friends
at a Wuhan mall, he is just happy that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“It feels great. I’ve been
stuck at home for so long.”