April 9, 2020

What will life after Covid-19 look like? Wuhan is giving us our first glimpses.

Daily Briefing

    Editor's note: This story incorrectly stated that there have been about 80,000 reported deaths related to Covid-19 in China. We've corrected the story to note that there have been about 80,000 reported cases of Covid-19 in China, not deaths.

    On January 23, the city of Wuhan, China was locked down to prevent further spread of the new coronavirus. Now, more than 10 weeks later, the lockdown has been lifted—but life for Wuhan's residents hasn't returned to normal just yet.

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    Background

    Reports of the new coronavirus first surfaced in early December 2019 among people in Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei province. The outbreak's origin was connected to a live seafood market that also sold exotic animals in Wuhan.

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    On January 23, Chinese authorities shut down public transportation within Wuhan and two neighboring cities, Ezhou and Huanggang. Authorities also largely closed off access to Wuhan, suspending buses, subways, and ferries within the city and canceling flights and trains leaving the city. Highways entering the city were also sealed off.

    Ultimately, more than 50,000 people in Wuhan were infected with the new coronavirus, resulting in more than 2,500 deaths related to Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. The total number of infections among Wuhan residents accounts for roughly 60% of the more than 80,000 virus cases reported in China.

    Wuhan's lockdown lifted

    On Wednesday, Wuhan officially reopened, following reports of just three new coronavirus cases within the city in the past three weeks, and a day after China reported no new coronavirus deaths for the first time since January.

    Following the lift of the lockdown, many people began venturing out to parks and businesses. According to Hu Yabo, Wuhan's deputy mayor, about 94% of businesses in the city have reopened.

    The lockdown reversal also reopened public transportation and flights, and roughly 65,000 people were expected to leave the city on Wednesday. According to Yan Xiangsheng, a district police chief in Wuhan, almost 1,000 vehicles went through a toll booth at the border of Wuhan between midnight and 7 a.m.

    Lockdown's effects linger

    But the end of the lockdown doesn't mean people are back to life as normal. People are only free to leave and enter the city after showing authorities a government-sanctioned app that shows they are not at risk of being contagious, based on their address, recent travel, and medical history.

    In addition, public health officials are still encouraging people in Wuhan to stay home as much as they can, and certain rules are still in place on people and businesses to keep the virus from spreading again. Schools also remain closed.

    Cao Guangjin, vice governor of Hubei, said, "We are acutely aware that we must not relax as we have not claimed final victory. We need to remain calm, and be just as cautious at the end as at the beginning."

    The loss of income that occurred during the lockdown also could leave a number of small businesses in Wuhan in financial trouble, the New York Times reports. According to the Times, it's unclear "how much business" the reopened organizations are actually doing: Not all employees of reopened businesses are back at work, and the overall use of electricity is still down by one-fifth compared to this time last year, said Dang Zhen, another city official.

    But for many individuals like Xiao Yonghong, who was stuck in Wuhan after traveling there to spend the Lunar New Year with her family, the end of the lockdown means they can return home.

    "We were too excited to fall asleep last night," Xiao said. "I was looking forward to the lockdown lift very much. I set up an alert to remind myself. I was very happy" (Zhong/Wang, New York Times, 4/7; Fernandez, Axios, 4/7; McNeil, Associated Press, 4/8; Goh/Suen, Reuters, 4/7).

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