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World Pride and caution in Wuhan on lockdown anniversary

05:51  23 january  2021
05:51  23 january  2021 Source:   afp.com

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WUHAN , CHINA - One year after it thrust the word " lockdown " into the global conversation, Wuhan reached the anniversary with a mix of pride at emerging from COVID-19's grip and caution over a possible relapse. A year ago Saturday, Wuhan shocked the world by confining its 11 million anxious

Exactly one year after it thrust the word " lockdown " into the global conversation, Wuhan passes the anniversary on Saturday with a mix of pride at recovering from the coronavirus and caution over a possible relapse.

Exactly one year after it thrust the word "lockdown" into the global conversation, Wuhan passed the anniversary on Saturday with a mix of pride at emerging from Covid-19's grip and caution over a possible relapse.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Anxiety lurks below the surface as localised clusters multiply across China, reviving memories of Wuhan's ordeal © Hector RETAMAL Anxiety lurks below the surface as localised clusters multiply across China, reviving memories of Wuhan's ordeal a group of people standing in a parking lot: While the world's pandemic struggles continue, Wuhan today is nothing like that locked-down ghost town of a year ago © Hector RETAMAL While the world's pandemic struggles continue, Wuhan today is nothing like that locked-down ghost town of a year ago

A year ago Wuhan shocked the world by confining its 11 million anxious citizens to their homes, beginning a traumatic 76-day lockdown that underscored the growing threat of a mysterious pathogen emanating from the city.

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Wuhan (China) (AFP). Exactly one year after it thrust the word " lockdown " into the global conversation, Wuhan passes the anniversary on Saturday with a mix of pride at recovering from the coronavirus and caution over a possible relapse. A year ago Saturday, Wuhan shocked the world by ordering 11

WUHAN , China — Two new films about Wuhan were released Friday, the eve of the anniversary of the start of a 76-day lockdown in the central Chinese Following a thinly attended showing of “Days and Nights in Wuhan ” on Friday morning, Wang Yu said the movie had awakened both memories of

a little girl walking down the street: The government has pushed an official propaganda narrative -- starring Wuhan -- focusing on a © Hector RETAMAL The government has pushed an official propaganda narrative -- starring Wuhan -- focusing on a "heroic" Chinese response and recovery

At 10 am that day, public transport was shut down and exiting the city was banned without special permission. An eery silence descended.

One by one, adjacent areas in hard-hit Hubei province quickly followed suit, as did governments worldwide as the coronavirus went global.

But while the world's pandemic struggles continue, Wuhan today is nothing like the locked-down ghost town of a year ago, with traffic humming, sidewalks bustling, and citizens packing public transport and parks.

"I was frightened last year but things have improved a lot since the epidemic has been brought under control," said a maskless jogger in his 20s who gave only his surname Wang, one of many people exercising under hazy skies along Wuhan's Yangtze Riverfront on Saturday.

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Wuhan residents' attitudes towards the curbs are far from aligned, with some expressing immense pride in their government while others say the help they The lockdown on residential compounds like hers was recently eased and she feels optimistic that the government has the crisis in hand.

Wuhan residents' attitudes towards the curbs are far from aligned, with some expressing immense pride in their government while others say the help they The lockdown on residential compounds like hers was recently eased and she feels optimistic that the government has the crisis in hand.

a person standing in front of a store: There are no known lockdown commemorations planned Saturday by Beijing, which remains tight-lipped on the pandemic's early days © Hector RETAMAL There are no known lockdown commemorations planned Saturday by Beijing, which remains tight-lipped on the pandemic's early days

"Life is like before now."

But memories of Wuhan's ordeal remain fresh, especially as localised Covid-19 clusters multiply across China, prompting mass testing in Beijing and targeted lockdowns in other areas.

Huang Genben, 76, spent 67 days in hospital fighting Covid-19 last year, spitting up blood and expecting to die.

"When I closed my eyes at night I didn't know if I would open them again," Huang told AFP.

Like many of his countrymen, he expresses pride at the "great efforts" made by China's government and citizens to contain the pandemic, exemplified by Wuhan.

The virus has killed at least two million people globally and continues to rage, but in China authorities have reported fewer than 5,000 deaths, the vast majority coming in Wuhan at the pandemic's outset.

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Residents of the city where the virus was first detected are taking cautious steps outside after being confined for three months.

A year since Wuhan entered the world's first coronavirus lockdown , clubbers in the Chinese city, some with cigarettes in hand and others wearing bunny ears, dance to pulsating beats at a nightclub called "Super Monkey".

And Saturday's relaxed scenes –- elderly dancers spinning in parks and crowded bars selling "Wuhan Stay Strong" craft beer -– contrast with the rolling lockdowns, surging death rates and overwhelmed hospitals in other countries.

- 'I feel pain' -

"We can tell from the results that the policy of the government was correct, the cooperation of (Wuhan) citizens was correct. I feel pain seeing the epidemic all over the world," Huang said.

The government has pushed an official propaganda narrative -- starring Wuhan -- focusing on a "heroic" Chinese response and recovery.

But there are no known lockdown commemorations planned Saturday by Beijing, which remains tight-lipped on the pandemic's early days amid accusations it tried to cover it up or mishandled the outbreak, allowing it to spread.

The virus is generally believed to have spread from a Wuhan wet market where exotic animals were sold as food.

But China has otherwise released little information on its origins, fuelling calls in the west for more transparency.

The lockdown anniversary comes with World Health Organization experts just days from completing a two-week quarantine in Wuhan before launching a planned investigation into the coronavirus's origins.

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The WHO said Friday it was too early to draw any conclusions as to whether the pandemic started in China.

"All hypotheses are on the table," said WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan.

- 'Strong, fearless' -

The anniversary was barely acknowledged in China on Saturday morning, with no initial government statements seen and minimal mention in state propaganda outlets.

A commentary in the Beijing News professed "mixed feelings", praising the aggressive lockdown as a model for the world while noting Wuhan's sacrifices -- and the persistent virus threat.

"We must not lose the hard-won results of the epidemic to negligence, and must not let the epidemic rebound," it said.

It added: "Pay tribute to Wuhan. Pay tribute to the strong and fearless Chinese people!"

While other nations, notably the United States, have dithered on their coronavirus response, Wuhan shut down completely, plunging its economy into recession.

Now, the activity on the streets attests to an impressive rebound, but some say it remains incomplete.

Xu Jiajun, a 58-year-old street vendor, said times remained tough.

"The situation is not good. I don't have a stable income like I did before. Things have changed," he said.

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WHO team meets Chinese scientists as COVID investigation begins .
Experts are in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, to piece together what happened in the initial outbreak.“All hypotheses are on the table as the team follows the science in their work to understand the origins of the COVID-19 virus,” the WHO said in a tweet, stressing that the experts “should receive the support, access and data they need.

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