The city of Wuhan came out of a 76-day lockdown last week, but many restrictions remain in place to prevent a second-wave coronavirus outbreak.
- Authorities in Wuhan claim to have reduced severe and critical patients to just 93
- An Australian toddler remains stuck with her grandparents in Wuhan, unable to return home
- Schools across China are set to reopen in April and May, with exams to be held in July
According to Chinese state media, Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, saw the number of COVID-19 patients in severe and critical condition drop to 93 on Saturday from a peak of more than 10,000 in February.
No new cases had been reported since the lockdown was lifted on April 8, China’s National Health Commission said.
State news agency Xinhua reported that the remaining patients in Huoshenshan and Leishenshan hospitals — purpose-built in February to treat coronavirus patients — would be transferred to four regular hospitals in the city.
“We hope to secure the patients the most effective treatment by placing them at the four hospitals with high-quality medical resources in the city,” said Jiao Yahui, an official with the National Health Commission.
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Aid groups are concerned about over-crowded refugee camps and countries that are already facing a crisis — whether that be conflict, malnutrition, another epidemic or over-burdened healthcare systems.
Officials also claimed that seven people over the age of 100 had been discharged from Wuhan hospitals after recovering from COVID-19.
The number of new cases appears to have stabilised in China while skyrocketing in the US and Europe, but the official figures from China have been brought under scrutiny.
At least 2,571 people have died due to COVID-19 in Wuhan, around 80 per cent of China’s official death toll.
Many suspect there were more victims in the early weeks who died without being tested.
A Washington Post report recently suggested the death toll in Wuhan alone could be as high as 42,000 — 16 times the official total — an estimate based upon a large increase in the number of bodies delivered to crematoriums.
Wuhan also has at least 50,008 of the mainland’s 81,907 confirmed cases.
Wuhan slowly returns to normal
The ruling Communist Party started easing controls in early March to try to revive the world’s second-largest economy after declaring victory over the virus as daily numbers of newly reported cases declined.
Wuhan and China are expected to suffer severe economic costs and tens of millions of job losses from the city’s closure.
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Most travel in and out of Wuhan was suspended by Chinese authorities on January 23, after the first cases of coronavirus were reported there in December.
The first passenger flight took off from the city of 11 million on Wednesday, after outbound traffic had been banned for almost 11 weeks. International flights are still suspended.
Xenophobia in China
As people of Asian descent face xenophobic attacks worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, foreigners in China are also increasingly reporting incidents of hostility and discrimination.
Road and rail connections with the rest of the country have also been re-established.
Residents are now allowed to leave Wuhan if they have a “green” code on a smartphone app that proves they are healthy and have had no contact with an infected patient.
In recent weeks, the rest of Hubei province — which was originally locked down with Wuhan — also had movement restrictions relaxed.
Some local apartment complexes still bar outsiders. Similar curbs are in place in the capital, Beijing, and other cities.
As it has claimed to have the pandemic under control, the Chinese Government has increasingly emphasised the threat of imported cases.
Even as Wuhan came back to life, new imported cases in the far northern province of Heilongjiang surged to a daily high of 25, fuelled by an influx of infected travellers crossing the border from Russia.
Australians to return home from Wuhan
For some Australian citizens, Wuhan’s reopening means being allowed to return home.
Two-year-old Chloe Zhao — who has been stuck in Wuhan and kept from her parents for two and a half months — is still unable to return to Melbourne.
Her mother Yuchen Cao told the ABC it was still unclear if her toddler could come back home accompanied by her grandparents because the elderly couple only held temporary stay visas and were barred from entering Australia under the current travel ban.
“In Australia, the pandemic is more serious than China. But we still want to bring our daughter home,” Ms Cao told the ABC.
Ms Cao said she was happy to pick up her daughter from Wuhan in person.
“But I was banned from traveling overseas, and there is no flight available in the coming weeks,” she said.
“Our family never stopped looking at the most secure way to bring her home. We are trying our best.”
Wuhan factories back to work
Car factories and other businesses in Wuhan deemed essential for the national economy, or that produce daily necessities, have reopened. Some businesses, including real estate agencies, are still closed.
Wuhan Zonsen, which makes masks and disinfectant wipes, said $79 million in orders from European countries and the United States would keep it at full production capacity until June.
“Now the major demand for masks comes from European countries and the US, where the epidemic is severe … their demand now has increased to 10 times than before because of the epidemic,” said Cynthia Ye, global marketing manager of Zonsen.
The company plans to add another five production lines to increase daily production from 200,000 to 700,000 masks, Zonsen’s production managers told reporters during a media tour organised by the Wuhan Government.
Chinese Customs officials say ventilators, masks and other supplies being exported to fight the coronavirus will be subject to quality inspections following complaints substandard goods were being sold abroad.
Regulators in Australia, the Netherlands and other countries complained that masks, virus test kits and other products made in China were faulty or failed to meet quality standards.
Wuhan schools that have been teaching over the internet have yet to announce when they might reopen.
School officials said they were disinfecting buildings and designing a lighter workload so students could ease back into classroom work.
Elsewhere in China, however, officials said they would continue to reopen schools throughout late April and May.
Shanghai will see its schools begin to reopen on April 27.
“Students from elementary schools and kindergartens are relatively weak in their ability to protect themselves so they require more attention and better safety measures,” said Lu Jing, a Shanghai education official.
“We are being more cautious about their back-to-school timing.”
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In the capital Beijing, senior high school students will also go back on April 27, while junior high school students will resume regular schooling on May 11.
A spokesperson from Beijing’s education authority said college entrance exams would go ahead in July.
Schools will implement strict social-distancing measures in an effort to prevent another outbreak.
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