Wuhan takes a step closer to freedom, but it’s too soon to celebrate

After 76 days under perhaps the strictest lockdown measures in the world, Wuhan, the coronavirus ground zero, made the drastic decision to lift its city-wide travel ban.

On the eve of April 8, 11 million citizens waited for the stroke of midnight to celebrate the 'end' of an incredibly dark period in the city's history. The long-anticipated occasion was met with cheers, cries, and victory marches which filled the city's previously deserted spaces.

Wuhan officials worked to make a spectacle of the event. They set the skyline aglow with a jubilant light show, flooded social channels with celebratory campaigns, and live-streamed the thousands of cars lining up at the city's borders on Chinese state media. Within hours, Wuhan was reinvigorated with signs of life as airports, train stations, malls, and factories were reopened.

Post-lockdown Wuhan illuminated with a celebratory light show CCTVPLUS

"Wuhan is slowly returning to normal life," said Xinyan Yu of BBC News. "Malls are open but people are not in the mood to shop yet. Breakfast stalls and supermarkets are the busiest. Everyone is still vigilant and wearing masks. And the most pressing thing to do after a two-month lockdown? Get a free haircut."

As many as 65,000 left on last-minute flights and train rides in a rush to get out of the city. Those who chose to stay remain under strict public health measures, which includes a stern call to stay at home as much as possible. However, many locals have been too preoccupied with their partly restored freedoms to keep the bigger picture in mind.

The decision to lift the lockdown was indeed a step closer to freedom, but there is still much cause for concern. Maybe the rest of us have been cooped up in our houses for too long, but the sight of hordes of people congregating in such close proximity to each other is somewhat more unsettling than reassuring. Make no mistake—it is still too early to declare a victory.

Travelers inside Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan REUTERS/Stringer

Wuhan was reopened despite fears of secondary and tertiary waves of infection occurring as a result of easing restrictions too early. The city has technically passed its peak of infections and new daily cases have dropped significantly since; however, there is still the threat of imports and asymptomatic individuals passing on the virus and causing a resurgence in new (and possibly mutated) cases.

What is also concerning are the allegations that China has not been completely honest in its reporting during this pandemic. Just last week, Michael Gove, a senior British government minister, told the BBC that "some of the reporting from China was not clear about the scale, nature, [and] infectiousness of the virus."

There were also previous reports of 'whistleblowers' being silenced, including Dr. Li Wenliang, a former physician at Wuhan Central Hospital. When he had initially tried to warn his colleagues about the novel coronavirus, he was confronted by the local police. He later lost his life to the virus a few weeks later.

Commuters boarding the subway in Wuhan after the lockdown was lifted REUTERS/Aly Song

Then, in an official intelligence report later received by the White House, it was said that China's coronavirus reports were "intentionally incomplete" and "fake."

"We know this virus began circulating in Wuhan at the latest by December 2019, but it's no secret that China did indeed conceal its existence, its extent and its severity in the early stages," the BBC reports.

Clearly, it is difficult to celebrate the Wuhan decision when there is mistrust and implanted seeds of doubt. Was the lockdown in Wuhan lifted because the virus has actually been contained, or is it just another cover-up by the Chinese to play up the optics and make it only seem like things are improving?


The bottom line is, the virus is still out there and there is still no vaccine to fight against it. Until there is one, we must take these 'victories' with a grain of salt. We may have to fight this battle for longer than we think.

Photo by Piqsels

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