According to Chinese state media, over 7,000 people boarded airplanes and flew out of Wuhan, source of the global coronavirus pandemic, on the first day after its two-month lockdown was lifted.
China’s Global Times counted 7,119 air passengers departing Wuhan and 4,595 arriving:
Wuhan airport operated 221 flights on the day it re-opened, an official from the Civil Aviation Administration of China revealed at a press conference on Thursday. It reached more than one-third of normal flight numbers before the epidemic.
Among them, 107 flights sent 7,119 passengers to cities across the country, with the top three destinations being Chengdu in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, Haikou in South China’s Hainan Province and Shenzhen in South China’s Guangdong Province, accounting for 20.6 percent of the total.
Meanwhile, 4,595 passengers arrived in Wuhan on 114 flights. Guangzhou in South China’s Guangdong Province, Chengdu and Haikou were the top three cities that the flights came from, making up 22.8 percent of the total.
Overall operations at the airport went smoothly and in an orderly manner under a rigorous work resumption plan, said the official.
A Global Times editorial on Wednesday applauded Wuhan for rising “like a phoenix” from the coronavirus lockdown, celebrating long lines at airports and train stations while trashing Western media suspicious of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) claims that absolutely no one is catching the virus in Wuhan anymore:
But the city’s lockdown easing, unavoidably, ignited suspicion from foreign media, such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, as they questioned whether it is too early to lift the ban, as some feared a second outbreak may engulf the city, or even other parts of China, after it re-opens. And they repeated the old line that Wuhan under-reported its real infection numbers.
Wuhan’s health commission reported only had 297 patients with fever symptoms on April 5, a sharp drop from more than 15,000 per day at its peak in January.
Wuhan reported zero new COVID-19 patient on Tuesday.
“Wuhan is one of the safest places in China, as the pain still lingers in Wuhan people’s hearts, which propelled the people and government to remain on high alert to avoid contagion. And the hospitals have formed a relatively mature test and treatment mechanism for patients, not mention the number of COVID-19 patients dropping drastically in the city,” said a doctor from Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University.
The editorial applauded Wuhanites for obsessively getting themselves tested even more than necessary to prove they can safely return to work and resume travel. Even as it ferociously attacked foreigners for daring to question the CCP’s improbably claims of complete virus eradication in Wuhan, the Global Times tangentially noted that the seat of Communist Party power in Beijing is double-testing arrivals from Wuhan, and so are several other unnamed Chinese cities.
Radio Free Asia (RFA) noted the end of travel restrictions for Wuhan “in favor of an app monitoring people’s health status and social contacts came in spite of outbreaks in other parts of the country and warnings from experts that there could be a resurgence in coronavirus cases.”
The lockdown is not entirely over, despite all those triumphant CCP headlines about the phoenix of Wuhan rising from the ashes:
Tens of thousands of people stranded in the city after traveling there to spend Lunar New Year with loved ones in January were finally allowed to leave, piling back onto planes, trains and long-distances buses with their luggage.
However, social distancing measures remain in place, with schools closed, masks strongly encouraged in public and temperature checks for anyone entering public spaces.
And anyone arriving elsewhere in China from Wuhan will likely face 14-day quarantines and coronavirus testing at their destination.
“It’s easy to get into Wuhan now, but it’s still pretty hard to get out,” aquaculture business owner Liu Shaoxin told RFA.
A green code “pass” allowing free travel out of the city requires a total of seven certificates, as well as the seal of the Center for Epidemic Control and Prevention, and approval by the local district-level government, he said.
According to RFA’s sources some residents of Hubei, the province where Wuhan is located, are maintaining their own roadblocks, while municipal authorities in some parts of China are quarantining goods sent from Wuhan or blocking shipments altogether. Wuhan vendors, especially those who deal in food, are learning to conceal the fact that their products originated in Hubei province so they do not scare off nervous buyers in other parts of China. This could have disturbing ramifications for international shipments as they come back online.
Chinese officials are said to be watching Wuhan carefully and could reimpose quarantines if a “second wave” of infections is detected. Skeptics believe the second wave is already in progress but Chinese officials are deliberately concealing it, the same way they lied about the original outbreak, possibly including Wuhan and Hubei authorities lying to Beijing because they were desperate to get the lockdown lifted.
RFA noted that while loud celebrations of Wuhan’s liberation are blasting through Chinese media, new quarantines and lockdowns are quietly appearing in other areas, amid much talk of hard-to-detect “asymptomatic” carriers. Chinese citizens assume their government will be less than honest with them about their situation:
Meanwhile, the epidemic threat level has been raised from low to medium in two districts of the southern city of Guangzhou, Baiyun and Bao’an, while temporary travel restrictions are in place in Yuexiu district, while photos of roadblocks and shuttered businesses in Sanyuanli were posted to social media.
A local resident surnamed Huang confirmed the social media reports about Yaotai, the area near Sanyuli, in Yuexiu district.
“Residential compounds are closed over in Yaotai,” Huang said. “People are allowed to leave but not come in.”
“People are so worried because there are so many asymptomatic carriers and no transparency, so we can’t know the true situation,” he said. “Guangzhou is quite crowded, and we are back to work, but we have been careful.”
“Some people aren’t wearing masks, and some restaurants aren’t being too careful.”
The Taiwanese, whose response to the coronavirus was the most effective in the world, are clearly not taking China’s claims of zero infections in Wuhan or Hubei at face value. RFA noted Taiwanese experts are particularly suspicious of the asymptomatic carriers, whose number and potential for infecting others they believe the CCP is dangerously underestimating.