City at centre of China’s virus outbreak gradually revives

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Shopkeepers in the city at the centre of the virus outbreak in China were reopening on Monday but customers were scarce after authorities lifted more of the anti-virus controls that kept tens of millions of people at home for two months.

“I’m so excited, I want to cry,” said a woman in the Chuhe Hanjie pedestrian shopping area.

She said she was a teacher in the eastern city of Nanjing visiting her family in Wuhan when the government locked down the city in late January to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Some 70% to 80% of shops on the retail street were open but many imposed limits on how many people could enter.

Shopkeepers set up dispensers for hand sanitiser and checked customers for signs of fever.

Wuhan’s bus and train service has resumed, easing curbs that cut most access to the city of 11 million people on 23 January as China fought the coronavirus.

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Virus Outbreak China Wuhan Revives
A store employee waits outside for customers at a re-opened retail street in Wuhan (Olivia Zhang/AP)

The train station reopened on Saturday, bringing thousands of people to what is the manufacturing and transportation hub of central China.

Travel controls on most of Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, were lifted on 23 March. The final restrictions preventing people from leaving Wuhan are due to end on 8 April.

China had suffered 3,186 coronavirus deaths, including 2,547 in Wuhan, as of midnight on Sunday, according to the National Health Commission. The country had a total of 81,470 confirmed cases.

Car makers and other manufacturers in Wuhan have reopened but say they need to restore the flow of components before production returns to normal levels.

Some are waiting for employees who went to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year holiday and were stranded when plane, train and bus services were all but cut off to Hubei province.

Some parents were on the street with their children but traffic was light.

The owner of a sweet shop said two of her four employees are back at work but she was not sure whether the others were willing to come back.

“We’ve only prepared a little stock,” said the owner, Li Zhen.

“Most people are still afraid of the virus.

“We may have to wait for a while to see when things can return to normal.”

A poster at the entrance to the shopping area asked customers to wear masks, cooperate with fever checks and show a code on a smartphone app that tracks a user’s health status and travel.

A banner nearby said, “Wuhan We Are Coming Back. Thank You.”

Two women who wore protective clothing that identified them as medical workers were surrounded by pedestrians who waved Chinese flags at them in a gesture of gratitude.

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