Masked crowds fill Wuhan's streets, trains as lockdown ends

WUHAN, China (AP) — Amid streets newly bustling with cars and pedestrians, Wang Chun celebrated the lifting of a virus lockdown on her hometown of Wuhan on Wednesday with a dance outdoors after 2 1/2 months largely cooped up at home.

“I’m so happy Wuhan has defeated the virus,” Wang said after recording a K-Pop-inspired duet with a male partner for posting on the internet. Neither of them wore face masks, at least for a brief few minutes.

After she put on the mask again, Wang confronted the question many of the city’s 11 million residents are asking themselves: When will they be going back to work?

“That’s a very good question,” Wang responded with a giggle.

Wuhan ended its 76-day lockdown Wednesday morning, allowing residents to again travel in and out of the city without special authorization through the use of a mandatory smartphone app powered by a mix of data-tracking and government surveillance showing they are healthy and have not been in recent contact with anyone confirmed to have the virus.

Long lines formed at the airport and train and bus stations as thousands streamed out of the city to return to their homes and jobs elsewhere. Yellow barriers that had blocked off some streets were gone, although the gates to residential compounds remained guarded.

After more than two months indoors, Wuhan resident Tong Zhengkun was one of millions of enjoying a renewed sense of freedom.

“Being indoors for so long drove me crazy,” an emotional Tong said as he watched a celebratory midnight light display from a bridge across the broad Yangtze River flowing through the city, where the coronavirus outbreak began late last year.

Tong said his apartment complex was shut down after residents were found to have contracted the coronavirus. Neighborhood workers delivered groceries to his door.

Such measures won’t be entirely abandoned following the end of Wuhan’s closure, which began on Jan. 23 as the virus raged through the city and overwhelmed hospitals. Schools are still closed, people are still checked for fevers when they enter buildings, and masks are strongly encouraged. City leaders say they want to simultaneously bring back social and commercial life while avoiding a second wave of infections.

The economic costs of the outbreak in Wuhan and across China have yet to be calculated but are expected to be severe. Estimates of job losses range into the tens of millions, with the government offering aid to small and medium size businesses that furnish the most employment.