China’s Wuhan — where coronavirus emerged — begins easing lockdown

Two months after the Chinese city of Wuhan was locked down, restrictions began lifting Saturday, with some subway services restarted and borders reopening.

Bringing life back to the city where the epidemic first erupted in December is a turning point in China’s fight against the virus, which has sickened nearly 82,000 people in China and more than 600,000 worldwide.

Of the 3,299 deaths from COVID-19 reported in China, 3,177 were in the province of Hubei, where Wuhan, a city of 11 million, is located. The figures coming out of China have been questioned, as various clues point to potentially more infections and deaths, including a vast number of urns at funeral homes in Wuhan.

Guo Liangkai, a 19-year-old student who was stranded in Shanghai for months due to the clampdown, was on one of the first trains that arrived in the city. “It makes me very happy that I can see my family,” Guo told Reuters after being greeted by his mother at the main station. “We wanted to hug but now is a special period so we can’t hug or take any actions like these.”

Authorities took draconian measures to stop people from entering or leaving the industrial city in central China.

Families were confined to their homes. Bus and taxi services were shut, and only essential stores were allowed to remain open.

The lockdowns soon spread to most other provinces in China, with roughly 700 million people told to stay home and limit activity at their height. Now, as other countries around the world enact similar, though less strict, measures, China is easing its closures in an effort to get the country back to work.

“I think the resumption of work represents a kind of hope. It at least shows that China is victorious,” said Zhang Yulun, 35, who was among the workers locked out of Wuhan returning on Saturday.

But at least one study has warned that relaxing the closures in Wuhan could fuel a second wave of the disease.

China’s National Health Commission said on Saturday that 54 new coronavirus cases were reported on the mainland on Friday, all involving so-called imported cases.

Effective Saturday, China suspended the entry of foreign nationals with valid Chinese visas and residence permits. The last confirmed locally transmitted case of the virus in Wuhan was on Monday.

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