GP Insights # 330, 11 April 2020
For the first time since late January 2020, Wuhan, the city where the pandemic was believed to have begun, lifted its lockdown on 8 April. While many countries across the world have begun to impose restrictions on the movements of the people, the city with up to 11 million people, return to normalcy.
In the past weeks, when the rise in the number of coronavirus cases began to slow down, China followed partial ease in the restrictions allowing people to move out of their homes slowly. With the formal removal of the lockdown, highway tolls, trains, flights, and local transport services reopened in Wuhan.
What is the background?
The outbreak is believed to have begun in November 2019, linked to a sea-food market in the Wuhan city of Hubei province in China. Since then, more than 81,740 people have been confirmed as affected and over 3,300 people have died in China, the majority of them from the Hubei province. To contain the spread of the virus, unprecedented restrictions on the movements of the people were imposed. The Wuhan city was on complete lockdown, with some areas reporting crucial deaths and spike in cases under a total shutdown. This included shutting down of businesses, transport services, and educational institutions.
In March 2020, when no new infections were reported for a week, shopping malls were reopened for the first time but permission to leave home for two hours was given to only those in the 'epidemic-free' residential areas. From 8 April, residents cleared for good health were allowed to use public transport after showing their QR code that is linked to their health status. Industries that are linked to national and global supply chains were reopened. Limited air service was provided to 10,000 passengers after being tested to be in good health. Among the passengers who departed Wuhan on 8 April, many were those who were stranded in the city for the past four months.
What does it mean?
After setting precedents for lockdowns across the world, Wuhan seems to be setting a new precedent on what to expect when lockdowns are lifted. The pressure on the administration has increased after the lockdown is lifted.
In two days, people were seen protesting against rent payment in Wuhan, and the issues relating to cremation have posed a challenge to the governance in the city. It is needless to expect that Wuhan will not witness more such issues in the coming weeks. The socio-economic challenges faced in Wuhan may be true for the realities of other regions as well in the coming months.
Though the movement in the city has resumed, there is a ban on gatherings at cemeteries and crematoriums for another month. With the likeliness of COVID-19 'reactivation,' the outcomes would be disastrous. As it remains unclear whether the virus would re-emerge or mutate, sufficient precautions are imperative in the city that now reopens.