China Begins Relaxing Social Distancing Measures As Outbreak Slows
Earlier in the week Wuhan - where the outbreak began - recorded no new cases for the first time and now checkpoints in the city have been lifted.
The barriers have been in place since January and local media reported that fireworks were set off as they were moved.
No new cases were reported in Wuhan on Wednesday (18 March), the first time this has happened since the outbreak began, and the city has not reported any new cases for three days straight.
Yesterday (21 March), the country as a whole reported 46 new confirmed cases.
The day has come. For the first time since the outbreak began, authorities record NO new cases in #Wuhan or Hubei, and just 1 domestic transmission. The overall numbers for mainland China are rising though to 34 in total - mainly in #Beijing - all overseas arrivals. pic.twitter.com/idMXBY9Pkl
- Bill Birtles (@billbirtles) March 19, 2020
Cautiously, the country is now looking to restart the economy in provinces classified as at 'low risk of infection'. Schools are beginning to reopen, with students having worked from home for the last month or so. Supermarkets and convenience stores are opening, as are some factories.
In the eastern city of Hangzhou, cinemas, libraries and museums will be allowed to open, while measuring people's temperatures at hotels, subway stations and office buildings will cease.
For those who have been in a state of unprecedented lockdown since January, it is strange to feel life beginning to return to 'normal'.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, a man named only as Yang said: "The last two months felt surreal and, trust me, I'm almost 70 years old, and I've seen a lot of things.
"But we're all still alive, and I'm just so happy that the worst has passed.
"This is the first time I came back fishing at this lake since Lunar New Year - I'm very happy."
World Health Organisation representative in China, Dr. Gauden Galea, told UN News: "It is an epidemic that has been nipped as it was growing and stopped in its tracks. This is very clear from the data that we have, as well as the observations that we can see in society in general.
"So that's a big lesson: that the natural course of the outbreak does not need to be a very high peak that overwhelms health services.
"This lesson in containment, therefore, is a lesson that other countries can learn from and adapt for their own circumstances."
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Featured Image Credit: PA