Wuhan bustles a year after world's first coronavirus lockdown

Wuhan (China) (AFP) –


Barriers still enclose Wuhan's notorious seafood market -- one of the few immediate reminders the city was once the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic that has transformed the world.

Otherwise, the new normal in the central Chinese city of 11 million is much like the old reality; cars buzz down highways, sidewalks bustle with shoppers, and public transport and parks are busy.

On Saturday, the city where Covid-19 was first detected in late 2019 marks one year since it was locked down to crush the outbreak.

It was the first -- and one of the most severe -- coronavirus quarantines in the world, with transport to and from the city sealed off on January 23.

Seventy-six days of fear and panic followed before the virus scourge was brought under control.

Today, hospitals and pharmacies are empty of Covid-19 patients, the panic-slicked days of last year banished.

The city has bounced back and is eager to move on from being known as ground zero of the deadly virus.

No official commemorations of Wuhan's first lockdown are planned.

But vestiges of that nightmarish period are still visible.

The boards blocking off the Huanan seafood market in the centre of the city serve as an eerie marker of the first known cluster of cases before the virus billowed out of control, spilling beyond China's borders and claiming more than two million lives across the world.

And while the streets are full again, protective face masks remain a common sight -- a reminder of tight measures still in place across much of the country as fears rise over a number of local outbreaks.

China had largely brought the virus under control until a sharp uptick in cases in the past few weeks, which prompted fresh lockdowns, travel restrictions and multiple rounds of mass testing.

After a handful of cases were detected in Beijing in recent days, authorities banned 1.6 million residents from leaving the capital.