WUHAN, China (AP) — Couples go on dates, families dine out at restaurants, shoppers flock to stores. Face masks aside, people are going about their daily life pretty much as normal in the Chinese city that was first hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for the 11 million residents of Wuhan, a city devastated by the coronavirus. The commercial hub on the mighty Yangtze river spent 76 days in lockdown last year, from January to April. Overwhelmed hospitals sent the less seriously ill home, where they infected others. More than 3,800 people died, accounting for nearly 90% of the official coronavirus deaths in mainland China.
Today, some residents marvel that what was once considered the most dangerous place because of the pandemic may now be one of the safest. Bundled up against the winter cold, they walk briskly down a pedestrian-only shopping street that was a ghost town at the height of the outbreak.
Authorities remain on guard ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year holiday, when Chinese typically return to their hometowns for family gatherings. Even a World Health Organization team, which arrived from overseas this week to investigate the origins of the virus, is being made to quarantine for 14 days.