Lock­down end­ing in hard-hit Wuhan area; parts of Great Wall re­open


BEIJING — Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties said Tuesday they will end a two-month lock­down of most of coro­n­avirus-hit Hubei prov­ince at mid­night, as do­mes­tic cases of what has be­come a global pan­demic sub­side.

Peo­ple with a clean bill of health will be al­lowed to leave, the pro­vin­cial govern­ment said, eas­ing re­stric­tions on move­ment that were un­prece­dented in scale. The city of Wuhan, where the virus was first de­tected in De­cem­ber, is to re­main locked down un­til April 8.

China barred peo­ple from leav­ing or en­ter­ing Wuhan be­gin­ning Jan. 23 in a sur­prise mid­dle-of-the-night an­nounce­ment and ex­panded that to most of the prov­ince in suc­ceed­ing days. Trains and flights were can­celed and check­points set up on roads into the cen­tral prov­ince.

The dras­tic steps came as the coro­n­avirus be­gan spread­ing to the rest of China and over­seas dur­ing the Lu­nar New Year holiday, when mil­lions of Chi­nese travel.

The virus raged for weeks in Wuhan, the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal, and sur­round­ing cities. Hos­pi­tals over­flowed, and tem­po­rary ones were hastily set up to try to iso­late the grow­ing num­ber of in­fected pa­tients. More than 2,500 peo­ple have died in Wuhan out of 3,270 na­tion­wide.

The out­break has since been brought un­der con­trol, and Hubei has seen al­most no new in­fec­tions for more than a week.

The move to end the lock­down showed the au­thor­i­ties’ ap­par­ent faith in the suc­cess of the dras­tic mea­sures as they try to kick start the world’s sec­ond­largest econ­omy and put money in the pock­ets of work­ers, many of whom have gone weeks without pay. It re­mained un­clear, how­ever, which cities and prov­inces, in­clud­ing Beijing, the cap­i­tal, would al­low peo­ple from Hubei to en­ter their ju­ris­dic­tions.

About 120,000 mi­grant work­ers, in­clud­ing many who had made the tra­di­tional trip home to Hubei for Lu­nar New Year, have al­ready been al­lowed to leave in re­cent days on spe­cial buses and trains, ac­cord­ing to Chi­nese me­dia re­ports. The re­ports said man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­ters such as Guang­dong and Zhe­jiang prov­ince are open to peo­ple from Hubei,

Out­side of Hubei, the govern­ment says work has restarted on about 90% of

ma­jor pub­lic con­struc­tion projects across the coun­try. While many mi­grant work­ers re­main trapped by travel re­stric­tions and quar­an­tines, fac­to­ries are op­er­at­ing again, though not at full ca­pac­ity.

In the Beijing area, the city zoo and parts of the Great Wall re­opened this week, though they re­quired ad­vance reser­va­tions to limit the num­ber of vis­i­tors. Some restau­rants were re­open­ing for busi­ness, some on the con­di­tion that cus­tomers do not sit fac­ing each other.

At the Xibei restau­rant in­side a mall in east­ern Beijing’s Shuangjing neigh­bor­hood, a line formed at around 11 a.m. Tuesday for the lunch open­ing, although man­agers said they ex­pected to serve only around 140 cus­tomers, down from the usual daily num­ber of 900 be­fore the virus out­break.

Half of the es­tab­lish­ment’s 20 ta­bles had “closed” signs on them to help keep a dis­tance be­tween cus­tomers, while food de­liv­ery work­ers rushed in and out with or­ders of grilled beef and lamb, noo­dles, pan­cakes and other north­ern Chi­nese dishes.

Of­fi­cials have turned their at­ten­tion to the threat of the virus en­ter­ing from abroad, with al­most all new cases be­ing recorded among peo­ple ar­riv­ing from over­seas. China’s Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion on Tuesday re­ported 78 new coro­n­avirus cases, among which 74 were im­ported.

Tourists walk along Badal­ing sec­tion of the Great Wall out­side Beijing af­ter it was re­opened on Tuesday fol­low­ing a two-month shut­down. Inset, auto work­ers eat lunch at re­cently re­opened plant in Wuhan.

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