Travellers line up with their belongings outside Hankou Railway Station after travel restrictions to leave Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and China's epicentre of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, were lifted. Photo: Reuters
The lockdown of Wuhan has finally ended after 11 weeks. Chinese authorities are allowing residents of Wuhan to travel in and out of the sprawling city, which was the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.
11 million people free to travel after 11 weeks
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Medical workers walk by a police robot at the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport. Photo: Reuters
After 11 long weeks, starting Wednesday midnight, the city's 11 million residents are permitted to leave without special authorisation, as long as a mandatory smartphone application powered by a mix of data-tracking and government surveillance shows that they are healthy and have not been in contact with anyone confirmed to have the virus recently.
Transport breathes back to life
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Police officers stand guard at a toll station of an expressway. Photo: Reuters
It didn't take long for traffic to begin moving swiftly through the newly reopened bridges, tunnels and highway toll booths, while hundreds waited for the first trains and flights out of the city, many hoping to return to jobs elsewhere.
The city was under strict restrictions for 76 days
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Medical workers hug at the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport after travel restrictions to leave Wuhan were lifted. Photo: Reuters
During the 76-day lockdown, Wuhan residents had been allowed out of their homes only to buy food or attend to other tasks deemed absolutely necessary. Some were allowed to leave the city, but only if they had paperwork showing they were not a health risk and a letter attesting to where they were going and why.
Tough measures taken in tough times
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A traveller adjusts her face shield outside Hankou Railway Station. Photo: Reuters
The drastic steps came as the coronavirus began spreading to the rest of China and overseas during the Lunar New Year holiday in late January when many Chinese travel back home.
Preventive steps to remain in force
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A member of a medical team weeps at the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport after travel restrictions to leave Wuhan, China's epicentre of the novel coronavirus disease were lifted. Photo: Reuters
Prevention measures such as wearing masks, temperature checks and limiting access to residential communities will remain in place in Wuhan, which is the capital of Hubei.
Revival after devastation
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A child has his body temperature taken outside Hankou Railway Station. Photo: Reuters
Restrictions in the city where most of China's more than 82,000 virus cases and over 3,300 deaths were reported have been gradually relaxed in recent weeks as the number of new cases steadily declined. The latest government figures reported Tuesday listed no new cases.
Not a final victory yet
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A police officer sprays disinfectant on a traveller outside Hankou Railway Station after travel restrictions were lifted. Photo: Reuters
In an editorial, the ruling Communist Party's flagship People's Daily warned against celebrating too soon. "This day that people have long been looking forward to and it is right to be excited. However, this day does not mark the final victory," the paper said.
Preparations before lifting of lockdown
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Passengers rest inside a high speed train at Wuchang Railway Station. Photo: Reuters
Tickets for trains out of Wuhan to cities across China already were advertised on electronic billboards, with the first train leaving for Beijing at 6:25 am. A line designated for passengers headed to the capital was roped off, while loudspeakers blared announcements about pandemic control measures, such as keeping safe distances and wearing masks.
How the restrictions came about
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Travellers wearing protective gear are seen at a check-in counter at the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport. Photo: Reuters
China had blocked people from leaving or entering Wuhan starting January 23 in a surprise middle-of-the-night announcement and expanded the lockdown to most of the province in succeeding days. Train service and flights were cancelled and checkpoints were set up on roads into the central province.
People of Wuhan celebrate lifting of lockdown
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Members of a medical team pose for a group photo at the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport after travel restrictions to leave Wuhan were lifted. Photo: Reuters
The occasion was marked with a light show on either side of the Yangtze river, with skyscrapers and bridges radiating animated images of health workers aiding patients, along with one displaying the words 'heroic city', a title bestowed upon Wuhan by Chinese President Xi Jinping.