A vendor wearing a face mask sells eggs at a market in Wuhan on April 2. The Chinese city, where the coronavirus first emerged in December, partly reopened on March 28 after more than two months of near total isolation. (Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP)
The Chinese government is relaxing the more than two-month lockdown in Wuhan city, where the Covid-19 pandemic emerged last December, but life will never be the same for most of its 11 million people.Ever since the novel coronavirus was first reported in the seafood market of this city, the capital of Hubei province in central China, it has officially killed more than 3,300 people across the country. The city suffered most. About two-thirds of China's over 82,000 infections were in Wuhan.Wuhan residents, who have been indoors since Jan. 23 after infections began to kill people, say they have been "adding oil" to others — a Chinese expression for encouraging and supporting others.Chinese authorities have relaxed controls over Hubei since March 25, but Wuhan will wait until April 8 to open its doors to traffic from outside the city.Wuhan's favorite breakfast noodles are back, showing signs of the city coming back to life. But in early March authorities brought in a comprehensive law banning the trade and consumption of wildlife, previously part of the activities at the busy Huanan Seafood Market.
Wounded emotionsMary Zhao arrived from Hunan before Chinese New Year to take care of her father, who was bedridden because of cancer. Her brother also came to Wuhan to spend the New Year days together with his father."On the 10th day of Chinese New Year (Feb. 3), my father died. The government funeral home took his body away," she said. There was not even a chance to mourn for the departed soul.
One day her father called and told her that her mother had just died. They cried loudly."It was at home because there were no beds in the hospital. We both were crying. I didn't know how to comfort dad, and I didn't know how to comfort myself," she said.At the peak of Covid-19 in January and February, Wuhan's overwhelmed hospitals were forced to ration beds, tests and medical supplies. Overworked doctors witnessed hospitals crammed with affected patients, exhausted colleagues helpless to save the dying, and bodies lying around for hours before undertakers could remove them. After the government undertakers took away Qiu’s mother's body, her dad was isolated at home. "I didn't know what to do every day except call Teresa," he said.Qiu learned from social media about the thousands of deaths and the need to be quarantined until the epidemic was over."What matters is that my dad is still around. And I have a dad," she said.She said she would quit her job in Hankou and return to live with her father in Wuchang.
'It is not yet over'
Ah Piao was a part of a volunteer group delivering medical supplies to medical staff by car at the beginning of the epidemic. "It was a tiring time, but it was fulfilling and more exciting than when I used to work for money."
After the strict lockdown was imposed, Ah Piao stayed at home, gathering information from the internet with his wife and helping out whenever he could.
He believes that even if many of the restrictions are lifted, "we will not have full freedom and will have to go out with medical credentials."
Ah Piao's advertising company was shut for two months. He said he suffered economically but pays his employees on time from his savings. "It's not easy," he said.
Wuhan authorities have reported that there are no more new coronavirus cases in the city. But Ah Piao said it was "deceptive" because cases cannot be reported when there is no medical testing for patients.
"A doctor friend told us to keep inside our home as long as possible, even if the government relaxes restrictions, because there are still a lot of people infected. Hospitals are not confirming infections as Covid-19," Ah Piao said.
Zhang Xiaohua in Wuhan said his friend’s father died of Covid-19. Later his friend was also infected. But doctors at the hospital will not confirm his case as Covid-19.
"It looks like the government is still hiding the truth, waiting for all the infected to die," Zhang said.