WUHAN, China (Reuters) – Life in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged, is slowly returning to normal as the government relaxes a more than two-month-old lockdown that cut the city off from the world and kept most of its 11 million residents at home.
Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, was once the epicentre of the now global pandemic and was subjected to the strictest curbs on movement and business.
The virus is believed to have emerged from a seafood market in Wuhan last year and the city accounted for about two-thirds of China’s total number of infections. New cases, however, have declined dramatically in the city and the rest of the country, prompting the easing of curbs that have been in place since Jan 23.
Reuters asked several Wuhan residents to share their experiences with the millions of people across the globe now in some form of lockdown or isolation.
Their advice? Stay united, stay indoors and “add oil”, a Chinese saying that means stay strong.
MU ZI, TAXI DRIVER
“In the beginning, I was quite scared because my job involves meeting lots of people, so I went home and quarantined myself.
“After the government measures to control the epidemic started to work in February, I became more relaxed and in a better mood. And since my housing compound has had no cases, they’ve started allowing us to go out.
“The situation overseas, especially in Italy, really makes my heart ache. I hope that overseas coronavirus patients will be able to overcome this.”
DING FAN, 27, EMPLOYEE
“In the beginning I was pretty scared, because the week after the lockdown was when the infections in Wuhan peaked, and the numbers published every day made me very sad.
“I wasn’t used to being at home and I would feel very anxious because everyone was very nervous; you’d open the windows to look outside and it would be completely empty, you wouldn’t even see a shadow. It felt very miserable and not like my home, a city usually bustling with life.”
“We live in the same world, and we need to work hard together to defeat this illness. Everyone should go out less, stay at home to read books, watch television and play games with the family.”
ZHANG JIANJUN, 33, WORKS IN PROPERTY PLANNING
“You have to stay hopeful, limit contact with others, reduce visits to crowded places. These are the only way you can protect yourself and your family.”
HU YONG, 40, DISINFECTANT SPRAYER
“I’ve been working as a volunteer and recently joined a disinfectant company to spray shops and streets. This epidemic has made me feel that we Chinese are really strong.
“As someone who has lived through this, I would like to tell everyone don’t panic, you have to adjust your state of mind. Secondly make sure you take precautions, like washing your hands, ensuring good ventilation and exercising regularly.”
GENG YI, HOTEL STAFF
“I have seen how medical workers have helped Wuhan. We are very grateful.
“Now that it feels like we’re close to victory, I would like to tell the world’s citizens ‘add oil’, keep going! Let’s work hard together and I’m sure everyone will beat this.”
YUAN YANZHONG, 59, RETIREE
“I am a Wuhan native. Since the city’s lockdown, I haven’t left the house. In the beginning, I was quite panicked, because this epidemic is very severe.
“I had stocked up on some essential goods before the Lunar New Year holiday, later my neighbourhood set up a group-buying chat group so we could buy food that would be delivered in bulk. Life wasn’t easy but staying at home was more safe.
“Based on the Wuhan experience, a good way to beat this is to stay at home, don’t go out, limit contact, bore this virus to death by staying at home. This is the best solution.”
YANG YUANFANG, 39, COMMUNITY VOLUNTEER WORKER
“My aunt was diagnosed as having the virus on Jan. 22 and then slowly her family got infected. At the time they received a lot of help from the community.
“I chose to volunteer because I found it very difficult to just stay on the sidelines. The situation made me very emotional. Wuhan is my home.
“This virus is very scary. To fight it we need to keep a positive attitude and be united.”
QIU XIAOYING, 72, SHOPOWNER
“We basically didn’t go out and didn’t visit other people’s houses. Everything stopped. We didn’t even visit our relatives or have meals together during the Lunar New Year holiday.”
“If we in China can overcome this epidemic, other countries can definitely triumph over their difficulties. You have to rely on your willpower, figure out ways to make it retreat, learn from China to have a responsible attitude, don’t take the virus lightly and don’t go out on the streets without masks.”
Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Miral Fahmy