Wuhan first went into lockdown on Jan. 23. Today, schools remain closed and residents are encouraged to stay at home, but they are now permitted to leave the city

By Claudia Harmata
April 08, 2020 01:26 PM
Credit: ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

On Wednesday, China officially lifted the lockdown on Wuhan, the original epicenter of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The city of 11 million will still face some restrictions and officials warned residents that the threat of further infections is not yet over, CNN reported. They continue to urge everyone to stay home and schools are still closed.

“For now, we still call on citizens to remain vigilant on the epidemic, don’t go out unless it’s necessary, and wear masks and properly protect yourself when you do,” Luo Ping, an epidemic control official in Wuhan, told CCTV, according to CNN.

Wuhan went under lockdown on Jan. 23, in what, at the time, was an unprecedented move to stop the spread of the virus — which claimed its first victims in December.

After 76 days, healthy residents and visitors will finally be permitted to leave the reemerging city. China’s national rail operator estimated that over 55,000 people would leave Wuhan on Wednesday, according to a state-run broadcaster CCTV.

Credit: ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Credit: ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

While the lifting of the lockdown is exciting news in the face of the pandemic and marks a new start for the Chinese industrial hub, Luo warns that the city must work hard to prevent any imported infections and a resurgence of local cases.

“After work and production resumed, the movement of people increased and so did the risk of cross-infections from mass gatherings. Some residents have dropped their guard and don’t wear masks when they go on the streets,” he told CCTV.

“The reopening of Wuhan does not mean the all-clear, neither does it mean a relaxing of epidemic prevention and control measures (within the city),” he added.

The New York Times reports that nearly 94 percent of businesses in the city — which amounts to a total of 11,000 — have resumed their operations.

The outlet adds that some shops have opened up street-front counters so customers can buy goods without entering the building, and more and more families are seen venturing out to enjoy some fresh air.

Credit: ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Credit: ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

And while the city tries to heal economically from the outbreak, its residents will also need time to heal emotionally from the experience. Of China’s 80,000 total reported cases of the virus, nearly two-thirds were in Wuhan alone.

“Wuhan people experienced it firsthand,” Yan Hui, a Wuhan native in her 50s who recovered from the coronavirus told The New York Times. “Their friends got sick. Their friends and friends’ relatives died. Right before their eyes, one by one, they left us.”

“Their understanding of this disaster is deeper compared to people in other cities,” she said.

Wednesday’s reopening comes one day after China reported no new deaths for the first time since January and only three new local infections in recent weeks. The country accounts for 83,933 of the 1.4 million global cases and 3,333 deaths. As of Wednesday, April 8, 83,000 people globally have died, with the most reported deaths in Italy.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.