Wuhan on Saturday, marks the one year anniversary of what became a global conversation – ‘lockdown’ as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that visited the world.
Wuhan had shocked the world by confining its 11 million anxious citizens to their homes, beginning a traumatic 76-day lockdown that underscored the growing threat of a mysterious pathogen emanating from the city.
At 10a.m a year ago, public transport was shut down and exiting the city was banned without special permission, leading to an eery silence.
One by one, adjacent areas in hard-hit Hubei province quickly followed suit, as did governments worldwide as the coronavirus went global.
However, the world still battles the pandemic with some countries still on lockdown but Wuhan today is nothing like the locked-down ghost town of a year ago, with traffic humming, sidewalks bustling, and citizens packing public transport and parks.
“I was frightened last year but things have improved a lot since the epidemic has been brought under control,” said a maskless jogger in his 20s who gave only his surname Wang, one of many people exercising under hazy skies along Wuhan’s Yangtze Riverfront on Saturday.
“Life is like before now.”
But memories of Wuhan’s ordeal remain fresh, especially as localised Covid-19 clusters multiply across China, prompting mass testing in Beijing and targeted lockdowns in other areas.
Huang Genben, 76, spent 67 days in hospital fighting Covid-19 last year, spitting up blood and expecting to die.
“When I closed my eyes at night I didn’t know if I would open them again,” Huang told AFP.
Like many of his countrymen, he expresses pride at the “great efforts” made by China’s government and citizens to contain the pandemic, exemplified by Wuhan.
The virus has killed at least two million people globally and continues to rage, but in China authorities have reported fewer than 5,000 deaths, the vast majority coming in Wuhan at the pandemic’s outset.
The virus is reported to have spread from a Wuhan wet market where exotic animals were sold as food.
But WHO said Friday it was too early to draw any conclusions as to whether the pandemic started in China.
“All hypotheses are on the table,” said WHO emergencies director, Michael Ryan.
The anniversary was barely acknowledged in China on Saturday morning, with no initial government statements seen and minimal mention in state propaganda outlets but a commentary in the Beijing News professed “mixed feelings”, praising the aggressive lockdown as a model for the world while noting Wuhan’s sacrifices — and the persistent virus
“We must not lose the hard-won results of the epidemic to negligence, and must not let the epidemic rebound,” it said.
It added: “Pay tribute to Wuhan. Pay tribute to the strong and fearless Chinese people!”