Wuhan after one year: normalcy returns, but pain over covid outbreak management persists


As China’s leadership celebrates the national victory over the virus, some people call for research into the advent of the pandemic.

Jianghan Road in Wuhan is packed with shoppers and walkers, bracing for the late December frost.

Bells ring an hour from the Hankou Customs House, a landmark of the city, where the road ends near the large banks of the Yangtze River.

Even on an icy weekday evening, restaurants along the main pedestrian street in town are filled with noisy conversations.

A year after Dec. 31, 2019, the day the city’s health authorities announced an unexplained pneumonia outbreak to World Health Organization (WHO) colleagues in Beijing, the bustle, bright lights and street noise seem to indicate a town returning to some semblance of normalcy.

But the battle between residents of the town that first felt the pain of the coronavirus pandemic and officials over how to recall the initial response to the crisis continues below the surface.

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“In the coming days, I think people will be a bit scared,” said 22-year-old Zhou Xiangning, a resident of Wuhan who contracted the virus in mid-January. He said over a steaming bamboo tray of soup and thin-skinned dumplings, “It’s not the fear of the virus returning, but the fear of the memories of that time,”

After weeks of being told the virus was controllable, preventable and not infectious, Wuhan and its approximately 11 million inhabitants were suddenly sealed off Jan. 23. The aim was to limit the further spread of the disease, now known as Covid-19, which has spread and killed nearly 2 million people worldwide.

Many people are still reticent in Wuhan about what they can and can not reveal about what happened and the lessons learned a year ago.

In April, Wuhan was released from lockdown after 76 days.

Sponsored by thousands of local volunteers who supplied and distributed scarce PPE and food and drove the sick to hospitals; by doctors and nurses who worked until they collapsed or until they were overtaken by the virus; by staff who set up temporary hospitals to relieve the flooded facilities within days, Wuhan made it.

However, the Chinese Communist Party’s reminder that people want to recall is of the broader national effort to contain the outbreak. The rush of medical staff and soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army from all the provinces of China, as well as the emergency response of the central government after Jan. 23, are highlighted.

A three-month exhibition in Wuhan, demonstrating and approaching the end of China’s response to the coronavirus, captures all this and more.

It demonstrates a victorious China over the virus, leaving out awkward stories.

But there’s no mention of Dr. Li Wenliang, who was praised as a whistleblower by the ophthalmologist after he was reprimanded by the police on Dec. 30 last year for warning colleagues about a “Sars-like disease” and who later died of covid.

Anything that does not adhere to the correct collective memory that makes the rounds on Chinese social media is easily censored.

The downplaying of the magnitude of the virus in the weeks before the lockdown, when people like Li tried to sound the alarm, is what still irritates some Wuhan residents.

Zhang Hai, who lost his 76-year-old father on Feb. 1, was one of them. Zhang claims that if it had been understood in mid-January that the virus was infectious, death might have been avoided before he chose to return from Shenzhen to Wuhan after his father broke his leg.

Zhang said, “I will not rest until [Wuhan officials] are held accountable,” He wrote a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping requesting that local officials be kept responsible for the duration from Dec. 31 to the lockout on Jan. 23, but his attempts to prosecute the local government have so far been unsuccessful, along with those of many other families.

They want to sell a story that they’ve handled the virus effectively here, but they’re also trying to eliminate the source,”They want to sell a story that they have effectively controlled the virus here, but they are also trying to erase the cause,” At the beginning, the cause is concealing and covering up the facts, but afterwards they just seem to concentrate on the results. That does little to wipe the pain from the hearts of those who are


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