Work and leisure return to Wuhan as Covid-19 fears and economic fallout linger

After 76 days of foreclosure, the Chinese city of Wuhan is gradually returning to a new normal. But while Covid-19 infection rates have dropped, social distancing measures are still in place and the economic repercussions for the industrial hub are also becoming clear.

A bride in a long dress poses near Lake East of Wuhan with her husband, the face stands out momentarily while a photographer takes photos before the wedding.

In a park near the central city of China, a grandfather swings his grandson in a hammock hanging between the trees while families with tents and picnic blankets enjoy a sunny afternoon.

Unimaginable signs of life during the recent zero ground locking of the coronavirus pandemic have appeared in recent days as Wuhan returns to work and plays a few days after the quarantine was lifted on April 8.

Wuhan’s malls and convenience stores reopened in late March, initially requiring visitors to submit to strict temperature controls and display a code on a special app that assigns each person a rating based on color based on their level of risk of infection.

Some small stores now allow customers to skip the temperature, while stores in the Hanjie Open Air Shopping Center have stopped checking health scores.

Even traffic jams have returned, with cars slowing down crawling on the way to Wuhan train station and in the tunnels under the Yangtze at rush hour last week.

Final-year high school students from the city and surrounding Hubei province will return to school from May 6, officials said on Monday, while many workers have already returned to their offices.

“It may take a while, but things are going in the right direction,” Bai Xue, a 24-year-old resident of Wuhan, told AFP.

Uncertain future

But while new infections in the city have subsided, fears of asymptomatic carriers and cases imported from overseas have kept Wuhan from lowering his guard completely.

Commuters are asked to scan QR codes in subway trains to record the exact car they are taking while residential communities continue to monitor people entering and leaving complexes and barricades remain on many streets of this metropolis of 11 million people.

Wuhan has reason to be afraid: after emerging from a live animal market late last year, the virus has spread like wildfire across the city, infecting more than 50,000 and killing more than 3,800 people – an upwardly revised balance sheet last week after authorities admitted counting errors. victims.

The industrial city is also facing great economic uncertainty, with companies ranging from wholesalers to cafes claiming that losses during the foreclosure have made rents unaffordable while lingering traffic restrictions in the city are hurting sales.

“We have very, very few customers,” said Han, the 27-year-old owner of a soy beverage stall in central Wuhan.

“Everyone is concerned about asymptomatic infected people,” she said. “Business just isn’t as good as it used to be.”

Authorities are trying to spur spending, releasing nearly $ 71 million in “consumer coupons” offering discounts at city supermarkets, malls, restaurants and bars.

But many restaurants haven’t reopened, and those that operate are only allowed to offer outside seating or takeout – making celebrations after the lockdown almost impossible.

‘Stay alive’

After dark, Wuhan remains the shadow of his former self.

Most nightclubs and bars are still banned from operation, with authorities warning against reopening “autonomous entertainment venues”.

The American-themed Hot & Crazy Sugar Daddy on the Yangtze River was the only one open in its neighborhood on Friday evening – and completely devoid of customers.

In the area near Wuhan University, the streets were empty on Saturday, roadside restaurants popular with students remaining closed. Huquan’s night market was silent behind plastic barricades.

Wuhan residents said they were reluctant to celebrate too much, too soon.

“My life is not good,” said Li Xiongjie, a 30-year-old resident who said the epidemic had left him unemployed.

“Staying alive is a victory, staying alive is the most important thing.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)