China’s Wuhan begins to lift its lockdown

A passenger wearing a protective mask arrives at a railway station in Wuhan on the first day inbound train services resumed following the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Wuhan of Hubei province, the epicentre of China's coronavirus outbreak, March 28, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak first emerged, began lifting a two-month lockdown on Saturday by restarting some metro services and reopening borders, allowing some semblance of normality to return and families to reunite.

After being cut-off from the rest of the country for two months, the reopening of Wuhan, where the epidemic first erupted in late December, marks a turning point in China’s fight against the virus, though the contagion has since spread to over 200 countries.

Among those on the first high-speed trains allowed into the city on Saturday morning was Guo Liangkai, a 19-year-old student whose one-month work stint in Shanghai stretched to three months due to the clamp down on movement.

Authorities took draconian measures to stop people from entering or leaving the industrial city of 11 million people in central China. Families were confined to their homes. Bus and taxi services were shut, and only essential stores were allowed to remain open.

China’s National Health Commission said on Saturday that 54 new coronavirus cases were reported on the mainland on Friday, all involving so-called imported cases. Mainland China now has 81,394 cases, with the death toll rising by three to 3,295, the commission said.

Wuhan accounts for about 60% of China’s coronavirus cases, but they have fallen sharply in recent weeks, a sign that the measures are working. The last confirmed locally transmitted case of the virus in Wuhan was on Monday.

With the United States, Italy and Spain and other countries now battling soaring infections, China is focussing on the risk posed by imported cases – most of them Chinese returning home.

Effective Saturday, China suspended the entry of foreign nationals with valid Chinese visas and residence permits.

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