Wuhan ends 76-day lockdown: After 11 weeks of lockdown, the first train departed Wednesday morning from a re-opened Wuhan, the origin point for the coronavirus pandemic, as residents once again were allowed to travel in and out of the sprawling central Chinese city.
As of just after midnight Wednesday, the city’s 11 million residents are now permitted to leave without special authorization as long as a mandatory smartphone application powered by a mix of data-tracking and government surveillance shows they are healthy and have not been in recent contact with anyone confirmed to have the virus.
The occasion was marked with a light show on either side of the broad Yangtze river, with skyscrapers and bridges radiating animated images of health workers aiding patients, along with one displaying the words “heroic city,” a title bestowed on Wuhan by the president and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping. Along the embankments and bridges, citizens waved flags, chanted “Wuhan, let’s go!” and sang a capella renditions of China’s national anthem.
Wuhan’s unprecedented lockdown served as a model for countries battling the coronavirus around the world. With restrictions now lifted, Hubei’s provincial capital embarks on another experiment: resuming business and ordinary life while seeking to keep the number of new cases down.
Restrictions in the city where most of China’s more than 82,000 virus cases and over 3,300 deaths were reported to have been gradually relaxed in recent weeks as the number of new cases steadily declined. The latest government figures reported Tuesday listed no new cases.
During the 76-day lockdown, Wuhan residents had been allowed out of their homes only to buy food or attend to other tasks deemed absolutely necessary. Some were allowed to leave the city, but only if they had paperwork showing they were not a health risk and a letter attesting to where they were going and why. Even then, authorities could turn them back on a technicality such as missing a stamp, preventing thousands from returning to their jobs outside the city.
Residents of other parts of Hubei were allowed to leave the province starting about three weeks ago, as long as they could provide a clean bill of health.
Even after ending the lockdown, Prevention measures such as wearing masks, temperature checks and limiting access to residential communities will remain in place in Wuhan.
There would be no celebration too soon- the ruling Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily warned people.
In anticipation of the lockdown’s lifting, SWAT teams and staff in white hazmat suits had patrolled outside the city’s Hankou railway station, while guards attended a security briefing under the marble arches of its entrance.
Tickets for trains out of Wuhan to cities across China already were advertised on electronic billboards as loudspeakers blared announcements about pandemic control measures, such as keeping safe distances and wearing masks. On Wednesday morning, about 100 passengers boarded the first train to depart Hankou station, bound for Jingzhou, another city in Hubei.