Health

Scenes From China's Coronavirus Epicenter After A 76-Day Lockdown Is Lifted

The city’s reopening comes as some fear a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

Medical staff from Jilin Province (in red) hug nurses from Wuhan after working together during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak during a ceremony before leaving as Tianhe Airport is reopened in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province. | Getty Images
Medical staff from Jilin Province (in red) hug nurses from Wuhan after working together during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak during a ceremony before leaving as Tianhe Airport is reopened in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province. | Getty Images

The city of Wuhan, China, where the first public coronavirus case was detected, lifted its strict lockdown measures on Wednesday, though Chinese officials have warned people to remain cautious of the deadly virus as cases continue to skyrocket around the globe.
 
Photos show people mostly wearing masks gathering in public spaces after months of strict lockdown measures that were introduced on Jan. 23. The reopening comes as health experts anticipate the potential for another spike in cases, even though officials have reported no new cases and slowly eased restrictions on travel in and out of the city for people who are healthy in recent weeks. Chinese state media estimated 55,000 people will leave the city by train on Wednesday, based on railway ticket sales.

The city remains stricken by the psychological toll of the virus and a social stigma among recovered patients. People are allowed to move more freely across the city and country if they signal a “green” health code on a mobile app or present documents that display permission to go out. Residents are still encouraged to stay home, and schools are still closed. Elsewhere in China, major cities including Shanghai and Beijing in recent weeks have gradually reopened businesses and transportation.

A medical worker from China's Jilin Province reacts as she prepares to return home at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province on April 8. | AP Images
People play on a basketball court in a city park on April 6 in Shanghai. Shanghai reopened most outdoor public facilities by the end of March. | Getty Images

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 1.4 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed globally, including more than 83,500 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. China’s number of confirmed cases — more than 82,000 — now ranks behind other countries hard hit by the pandemic, including the U.S., Spain, Italy, France, and Germany.

The lockdown’s end comes as reports, including from U.S. intelligence officials, have speculated that China and its capital Beijing significantly underreported the extent of the outbreak both in the country and in the epicenter of the Hubei province, where Wuhan is located. Some of that doubt has been cast because of China’s alleged failure to include asymptomatic cases. A report from the American Enterprise Institute published on April 7 estimates that China had closer to 2.9 million COVID-19 cases, which is drastically more than the approximately 82,000 that the country reported. (China’s foreign ministry spokesperson has rejected the U.S. allegation that Beijing concealed the extent of its outbreak.) 

As cities across the country reopened, many on-the-ground reports have noted that life is far from back to normal â€” but nonetheless, the transition comes as a case study for other countries across the world still dealing with earlier stages of the pandemic.

Passengers line up to enter the Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan. | Getty Images
Medical workers from China's Jilin Province wave Chinese flags as they prepare to return home at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province. | AP Images
Travelers walk to the exit of the Hankou Railway Station. | Getty Images.
A barber wearing a hazmat suit and a facemask cuts customers' hair in Wuhan, China's central Hubei province on April 7. | Getty Images
Crew members of flight MU2527 of China Eastern airlines pose for photos before takeoff at the Tianhe International Airport. | Getty Images
A restaurant worker prepares vegetables on the streets of Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on April 8. | AP Images
A man and woman sit together outside a blood donation center in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. | AP Images
Workers assemble cars at the Dongfeng Honda Automobile Co., Ltd factory in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on Wednesday. | AP Images

NowThis producer Sirui Hua contributed to this report.