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Life back to normal in COVID ground-zero of Wuhan, China

WUHAN, China

Anadolu Agency travels to first city where coronavirus was detected, leading to outbreak in late 2019.

As the world continues to fight the coronavirus with the emergence of new variants, in Wuhan, the ground-zero of the pandemic that erupted in late 2019, life is back to normal.

The coronavirus first spread across China and then over its borders, affecting the entire world.

While the number of cases exceeds 280 million worldwide, there is still no definite prediction on the way out from the epidemic.

The city of 11 million, where the first quarantine was declared in the world due to COVID-19, seems far from the atmosphere of panic and anxiety of the virus outbreak’s first days.

Health barcodes and armband officials

The city of Wuhan is located in the central part of China at the junction of multiple high-speed “bullet” train lines from all over the country, with its station providing services on 11 passenger.

Since there are no high or medium-risk settlements in the city, where daily infections have recently dropped to zero, no travel restrictions are currently in force. Now, high-speed train services from the capital Beijing are available almost every half hour during the day.

The train journey from Beijing to Wuhan lasts about five hours, with paramedics in white shirts and red armbands greeting passengers at the station’s exit. Officers ask arrivals to show a series of digital health barcodes, each showing where one has traveled over the last two weeks.

After the officers scan the barcodes with a cell phone camera, travelers can proceed towards the exit.

If the barcodes show that a passenger has passed through a medium or high-risk location, officers ask them to confirm this verbally just before the exit.

‘Jiayou!’

China has managed to control the COVID-19 pandemic to a large extent with its “zero case” strategy, applied for the first time in Wuhan before becoming a model for epidemic management in other parts of the country.

The “zero case” strategy to suppress COVID-19 cases where they occur and cut off the chains of transmission, requires quarantines in cities where millions of people live, along with travel restrictions, curfews, and mass testing. Measures that interfere with the flow of daily life often demand sacrifices by uninfected people.

It is no coincidence that one of the most-spoken words in the context of China’s fight against COVID-19 is “Jiayou,” a ubiquitous Chinese expression of encouragement and support.

Once projected onto the city’s large skyscrapers to urge the city’s residents to show effort and sacrifice against the coronavirus during the outbreak, it is now absent from the city’s skyline.

Nothing on streets that evokes virus memories

Even on a cold December evening, there is nothing to conjure up memories of ​​a pandemic in the crowded streets of Wuhan.

A group of women dance in the quay area of ​​the city, while Confectioners and souvenir shops mark the streets and lines of people extend in front of food stalls. A little further on, a restaurant’s counter displays meats to passersby in the open air.

The world became aware of the existence of COVID-19 for the first time when China reported that a mysterious respiratory disease of unknown origin emerged in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Dec. 31, 2019.

The disease was first detected in people who visited a seafood market in the city, and the first patient went to the hospital on Nov. 17, 2019 with complaints of a “respiratory disease,” the cause of which was unknown.

Wuhan went under quarantine on Jan. 22, 2020, before restrictions were lifted on April 7 that same year after the outbreak was brought under control.

Since December 2019, the pandemic has claimed over 5.42 million lives in at least 192 countries and regions, with more than 285 million cases reported worldwide, according to the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

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