The first epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic, Wuhan where the novel coronavirus emerged in late December is set to allow residents to travel outside the city on Wednesday for the first time since January 23, ending a 76-day unprecedented lockdown implemented to contain the outbreak.
The cautious lifting of the mass quarantine in Wuhan on Wednesday means the sealed city will reconnect its severed transport links with the rest of China: trains will leave the station; flights will take off from the airport and private cars will be able to drive out of city borders.
The first steps toward the gradual lifting of Wuhan’s lockdown comes in the backdrop of China on Tuesday reporting zero deaths from the disease for the first time since the national health commission (NHC) started to publish disease data in January.
Watch | China to lift traffic ban from coronavirus epicentre Wuhan after 11 weeks
A city of around 11 million people, Wuhan was the eye of the virus storm; it has until now accounted for more than 2,500 of the 3,331 Covid-19-related deaths and over 50,000 of the nearly 82,000 infections China has reported.
The coronavirus first emerged in the city in December, by most accounts from a seafood and meat market, stealthily and rapidly spreading between humans after it jumped from a host animal to patient zero – not an unusual zoonotic event but which in this case has gone on to assume pandemic proportions, killing more than 70,000 and sickening over 1.3 million globally.
The residents of Wuhan didn’t know what had hit them.
Instead, the government hit them with the largest urban lockdown in history, which in the weeks since January 23 became tighter and tighter, and spread to the rest of the province of Hubei, virtually locking up 60 million people.
Officials and experts, however, have clearly said the outbreak control procedures will remain in place.
Wang Zhonglin, Wuhan’s chief of the Communist Party of China (CPC), told a meeting on Sunday that authorities will “…continue carrying out strict community-based monitoring and management, making sure that a rebound in new infections won’t occur following the traffic resumption.”
Entry and exit restrictions at and monitoring of residential communities will continue, officials said.
Local media reports said restaurants, hotels, shops, buses and subway stations in Wuhan will continue to ask citizens to scan their health codes and register so that their health status and travel history could be monitored.
Like in the rest of China, focus in Hubei and Wuhan will also be on asymptomatic and imported cases.
The local health commission said Hubei had 690 asymptomatic patients under medical observation.
The Chinese mainland reported 32 new imported cases of Covid-19 on Monday
Bringing the total number of imported cases to 983, the NHC said Tuesday.
Of the total imported cases, 285 had been discharged from hospitals after recovery and 698 were being treated in hospitals with 21 in severe condition, the commission said in its daily report.