< /p> UPDATE DAY
“We are no longer afraid!”: Wuhan residents say Monday they have resumed a completely normal life, three years after the start of the city's traumatic confinement that signaled the start of the pandemic.
The metropolis of 11 million people, located in central China, began to be hit in late 2019 by what was then only an unknown virus, leading to pneumonia in an increasing number of inhabitants.
On January 23, 2020, the authorities ordered the city to be shut down to stop the epidemic. The virus would kill millions on the planet and cripple the global economy.
But life has since resumed in most countries. And after three years of lockdowns, mandatory quarantines and screenings, China lifted almost all of its health restrictions in December.
On Monday, nothing reminds Wuhan of the apocalyptic atmosphere of 2020. Despite an icy wind, residents take advantage of the Lunar New Year holidays to go to the markets or walk along the Yangtze River.
Pensioners indulge in some stretching, while some Wuhanese fly kites in somewhat foggy weather.
“The new year that is beginning will of course be better. We are no longer afraid of the virus!” Yan Dongju, a maintenance worker in her sixties, told AFP.
“The House of Hope”
A little further on, a young food delivery boy on a scooter nods.
“Everyone has returned to a normal life. People get together with family, friends, go out to have fun, travel… They have found their smiles again, ”explains Liang Feicheng to AFP between two orders.
“The worries and the fears that we may have had have subsided,” he says, equipped with glasses and a face mask to protect himself from the biting cold.
The confinement in January 2020, announced in the middle of the night and implemented a few hours later, took the inhabitants by surprise.
And the rest of the world, with their eyes riveted on the non-stop news channels, followed with anxiety and in real time the beginning of what was to become a global epidemic.
Stations and airports closed, roads blocked, transport stopped and businesses padlocked: for 76 days, Wuhan had been found cut off from the world, with inhabitants holed up in their homes and hospitals overwhelmed with sick people.
But the chaos of January 2020 is now far away.
In front of a store where AFP had taken the photo of a dead man lying on a sidewalk, the name of a school now installed in the building ( “The House of Hope”) seems to wink at fate.
The former site of the fruit market sea Huanan, a time suspected of being the epicenter of contamination, closed permanently in 2020.
On Monday, large sky-blue barriers still surrounded the disused complex, in front of which a police car was parked, AFP noted.
China, long considered a haven of health peace due to measures draconian measures against the virus, has been facing its most significant epidemic rebound in recent weeks.
About 80% of the Chinese population have contracted Covid since the lifting of health restrictions in December, according to epidemiologist Wu Zunyou , figure in his country of the fight against the virus.
China reported this weekend at least 13,000 additional deaths “related to COVID-19” between the 13th and the January 19.
This figure, which relates only to deaths reported in hospitals, is in addition to the approximately 60,000 deaths since December, previously announced by the authorities.
This assessment is undoubtedly underestimated for a population of 1.4 billion inhabitants, while many hospitals and crematoriums in the country still appear overwhelmed.