WUHAN (AFP, REUTERS) – The Chinese city of 11 million people that was Ground Zero for what became the global coronavirus pandemic partly reopened on Saturday (March 28) after more than two months of almost total isolation. Wuhan was placed under lockdown in January with residents forbidden to leave, roadblocks ring-fencing the city’s outskirts and drastic restrictions on daily life. But the major transport and industrial hub has now signalled the end of its long isolation, with state media showing the first officially sanctioned passenger train arriving back into the city just after midnight.
People are now allowed to enter but not leave, and many trains arriving on Saturday had been fully booked days in advance. Some had managed to slip back into the city a day earlier on rail services that were stopping in the city – but nominally banned passengers from disembarking – as enforcement of the travel ban began to ease. One woman who arrived on Friday said she and her daughter had been away from her husband for nearly 10 weeks. “As the train neared Wuhan, my child and I were both very excited,” the 36-year-old told AFP on Saturday. “It felt like the train was moving faster than before, and my daughter said the driver must know we really want to go home. “She rushed towards her father, and watching them from behind I couldn’t help but cry,” she added.
Staff at Wuhan station were all clad in full protective gear with reception desks lined up ready to process returnees who had been overseas. All arrivals in Wuhan have to show a green code on a mobile app to prove that they are healthy. Elsewhere in China long lines of travellers queued at train stations to board high-speed services back to Wuhan. Passengers in Shanghai had their temperatures checked by staff in goggles and masks after boarding their Saturday morning service. Restrictions on residents heading out of Wuhan will not be lifted until April 8, when the airport will also reopen for domestic flights. Wuhan is the last area of Hubei province
to see overland travel restrictions lifted, although some highways leading into the city had already reopened this week. Gao Xuesong, a worker in Wuhan’s auto industry, arrived back in the city Friday night. “It almost feels like returning to an alien land, because I haven’t been back for more than two months,” he told AFP.hina is now battling to control a wave of imported cases as infections soar abroad.
Steps for metro workers
As mass transit remains halted across much of the world, the metro system in Wuhan, China’s epicenter of the COVID-19 epidemic, has hit the restart button. Six out of nine metro lines in the city were open again on Saturday, after a two-month suspension. Riders, while extra careful, are also breathing a sigh of relief. The transfer station connecting lines 2 and 4 would normally see 50,000 passengers on a regular day. However, on the first day of reopening, there were far fewer travelers. Those who showed up said they had missed their daily commutes and the faces they haven’t seen in a while. “I’m going to Xunlimen Station on line 2 to see my fiancée. I haven’t seen her in two months,” said a passenger surnamed Li. Li’s fiancée asked him to stay put until the outbreak was completely over. But he couldn’t wait and took the train to see her before going to work. “We are lucky to be safe and healthy. I hope our country can stay strong. Wuhan has made great sacrifices. I feel it too as a new Wuhaner and hope the city may get even better,” said Li. Metro workers are also glad to see other people after two unusual months. “The metro reopened today, meaning residents’ daily lives will return to normal soon. I’m quite glad,” Long Zhengxin, on-duty head of Hongshan Square station said Saturday. To guarantee the safety of passengers, the station continues to check temperatures and is using big data to track each rider’s health status, arrival and departure.
Effective Saturday, China has temporarily suspended the entry of foreign nationals with valid Chinese visas and residence permits. The new restriction reflects worries in Beijing over the risk posed by so-called imported cases of the virus after widespread lockdowns within China helped to bring domestic transmissions under control. Beijing has also ordered airlines to sharply cut international flights from Sunday.