WUHAN, China (Reuters) – In China’s Wuhan, the original epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, the city’s residents are returning to normal life, even as they continue to grapple with memories of the early outbreak, which struck fear in the city.
It’s been almost seven months since the city recorded a locally transmitted case of the disease due to a strict city-wide lockdown and a mass testing event of almost all the city’s 11 million residents.
Today, restaurants, shopping streets and bars are crowded, but locals are still experiencing the lasting impact of the lockdown on mental health and work.
Reuters asked people throughout Wuhan to share images and videos they took during their outbreak, as well as their hopes for 2021, as the city approaches the one-year anniversary of the outbreak. City health officials released the first public notice of the then-unknown virus on Dec. 31, 2019.
Like the city itself, most people are enduringly optimistic, even as they reflect on the city’s toughest year in recent memory.
AN JUNMING, WUHAN VOLUNTEER
An worked as a volunteer during the city’s strict 76-day lockdown, delivering food to people trapped in their homes.
“At that time, I could only eat one meal a day, because there was indeed a lot of work to do, but there were very few people doing this, so I was very anxious.
“I hope that the entire city will prosper in 2021.
“It can be said that in 2020 there were no people on the streets of the whole Wuhan – only animals were active outside.”
ZHANG XINGHAO, LEAD SINGER OF WUHAN BAND ‘MAD RAT’
“At that time, I couldn’t do anything at home. It was very boring, so I thought I needed to write some music and sing some songs to find some fun in my life.
“It made me reflect on a lot of things, and it is the first time in my life that I have experienced such a disaster.
“The epidemic must not be ignored. I see that the news about foreign countries has a lot of infections, so this must not be ignored. We should not think that we are very powerful. In fact, I think we humans are quite fragile.”
DUAN LING, 36, BUSINESSWOMAN
Duan’s husband, Fang Yushun, caught COVID-19 in February while working as a surgeon.
“I had my birthday on the day he was hospitalised during the epidemic, and he spent a day editing and sent a video to me. So I felt very moved.
“We have experienced a lot of things in the year 2020, and I want to say goodbye to the 2020. But in the new year, I wish we could have a baby.”
LAI YUN, 38, JAPANESE RESTAURANT OWNER
“At this time, every one of us in Wuhan feels like time flies very fast. Like closing the city only feels like yesterday.”
Lai said he cherished memories of his children putting on performances in the family living-room.
“I think the inspiration that COVID-19 gives us is that a healthy body is more important than anything else.”
WU MENGJING, 22, DESIGN STUDENT
“I think the Wuhan epidemic has affected too many people. Many companies went bankrupt and residents were unemployed. This has a great impact on the entire development of Wuhan.
“I am very worried that there will be a second wave in Wuhan, because there were some recurrences of the epidemic in various parts of the country, and the number of college students in Wuhan is particularly large.”
JIANG HONGHUA, 34, STREET FOOD VENDOR
“During the epidemic, our whole family is together, and this time like this is very rare, and I felt very happy,” said Jiang, sharing photos of her son and daughter playing.
“I thought my year in 2020 was actually OK – I felt lucky that I could maintain the livelihood of the whole family. I hope in year 2021 I can have good business.”
LIU RUNLIAN, 58, STREET DANCER
“2021 is coming, and I don’t expect much from myself. But I want to live a peaceful life, and then I hope everyone is safe.”
(Reporting by Cate Cadell and Thomas Suen; Editing by William Mallard)