The citizens of Wuhan in the Chinese province of Hubei are experiencing a global first. As their lockdown winds to a close, the local community is the first in the world to again taste freedom after a large-scale local epidemic was brought under control. While still facing stringent controls and measures, Wuhan’s population are experiencing a unique moment that self-isolated people in Milan, Madrid, and New York City are pining for.
While other less-affected areas in China lifted lockdowns earlier, Wuhan is the first city to go from being terribly affected by the coronavirus to reopening for business. It is possible that the virus could reemerge and authorities could reinstate lockdown measures, but for a brief moment at least local residents can breathe in the fresh air and travel freely. After 76 days of enforced isolation, the city’s citizens on April 8 stepped outside into a post-corona world.
The lifting of the lockdown signals a “full restart” of economic and social life in Wuhan, and although many others across the world hope to soon share the city’s fresh experience, the measure does not necessarily mean troubles are in the past.. “The reopening of Wuhan does not mean the all-clear, neither does it mean a relaxing of epidemic prevention and control measures,” Luo Ping, a Wuhan official, told China News.
The new ‘normal’
In order to travel around in Wuhan’s post-corona society, citizens are expected to carry a QR code on their phone that confirms their negative COVID-19 status. Conscientious citizens line up at blood banks to volunteer their plasma while everywhere on the street volunteers and government employees monitor passers-by in hazmat suits and other personal protective equipment.
Every citizen in public always wears some sort of protective face mask and often wears medical gloves, as both the government and individuals remain wary of new infections. Shops and restaurants have reopened and many people are doing the shopping they have long put off. Because the government provided Chinese citizens with financial support and free medicine, most people have actually saved some money during the lockdown and are now coming out to spend it.
While Wuhan’s reboot shows us a future scenario when tightly monitored but relieved citizens reemerge to shop and socialize, it also reveals the sorrow left by the scars of the virus. A day of mourning in China confronted many with the tremendous cost to human life that the virus has inflicted on the region, as well as its lingering consequences. Because of the threat of infection, funeral ceremonies are not permitted and many people still wait to collect the ashes of their lost loved ones.
Exemplifying our future goal, Wuhan has re-awoken after what was hopefully the end of the local COVID-19 epidemic. The moment reveals a blossoming of the social bonds that lockdowns have shown to be so integral to our happiness. After this crisis is over, there will have to be caution and careful monitoring, a moment to remember those that were lost, and then hopefully a joyful reconnection with the little things that make life so precious.