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Wuhan eases travel restrictions after lockdown

2020-03-28 HKT 12:41
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  • Passengers queue up for temperature checks at a subway station in Wuhan, as the city lifts a tight lockdown after more than two months. Photo: Xinhua
    Passengers queue up for temperature checks at a subway station in Wuhan, as the city lifts a tight lockdown after more than two months. Photo: Xinhua
The city of Wuhan – Ground Zero for what became the global coronavirus pandemic – partly reopened on Saturday after more than two months of almost total isolation.

The city of 11 million people was placed under lockdown in January with residents forbidden to leave, roadblocks ring-fencing the city's outskirts and drastic restrictions on daily life.

But the major transport and industrial hub has now signalled the end of its long isolation, with state media showing the first officially sanctioned passenger train arriving back into the city just after midnight.

People are now allowed to enter but not leave, and many trains arriving Saturday had been fully booked days in advance.

Some had managed to slip back into the city a day earlier on rail services that were stopping in the city – but nominally banned passengers from disembarking – as enforcement of the travel ban began to ease.

One woman who arrived on Friday said she and her daughter had been away from her husband for nearly 10 weeks.

"As the train neared Wuhan, my child and I were both very excited," the 36-year-old told AFP on Saturday.

"It felt like the train was moving faster than before, and my daughter said the driver must know we really want to go home. She rushed toward her father, and watching them from behind I couldn't help but cry," she added.

Staff at Wuhan station were all clad in full protective gear with reception desks lined up ready to process returnees who had been overseas.

China is now battling to control a wave of imported cases as infections soar abroad.

All arrivals in Wuhan have to show a green code on a mobile app to prove that they are healthy.

Elsewhere in China long lines of travellers queued up at train stations to board high-speed services back to Wuhan.

Passengers in Shanghai had their temperatures checked by staff in goggles and masks after boarding their Saturday morning service.

Restrictions on residents heading out of Wuhan will not be lifted until April 8, when the airport will also reopen for domestic flights.

Wuhan is the last area of Hubei province to see overland travel restrictions lifted, although some highways leading into the city had already reopened this week.

The new coronavirus was detected in December and has been linked to a market in the city that sold wild animals for human consumption.

The city has paid a heavy price for the outbreak, with more than 50,000 people infected and more Covid-19 deaths than any other city in China.

But numbers have fallen dramatically in recent weeks.

Official figures show there have been fewer than 20 new cases across the province in the past fortnight. (AFP)