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Joy, relief as thousands leave China’s Wuhan

Joy, relief as thousands leave China’s Wuhan

AFP
Wuhan
Voicing joy and excitement from behind face masks, tens of thousands of people fled Wuhan on Wednesday after a 76-day travel ban was lifted on the Chinese city where the coronavirus first emerged.
Previously quiet train and bus stations bustled as an exodus began from the city of 11 million, with some passengers wearing hazmat suits.
Hao Mei, a single parent from the nearby city of Enshi, said her two children had been home alone since she got stuck in Wuhan, where she works in a school kitchen.
“You have no idea! I was already up around 4 am. I felt so good. My kids are so excited. Mum is finally coming home,” the 39-year-old told AFP as she waited to board a train.
“At the start of the lockdown, I cried every night. I was really miserable, because my little girl is still young, she’s only 10.”
Up to 55,000 people are expected to leave Wuhan on Wednesday just by train, according to government estimates.
Steady streams of cars were on the roads heading out of the city Wednesday morning, after barricades on its outskirts were dismantled with the ban on outbound travel being lifted at midnight.
Ferries, trams and taxis resumed operations and the airport also opened again for domestic flights, with queueing passengers in protective wear wheeling cases.
State news agency Xinhua said there would be around 200 inbound and outbound flights leaving the city on Wednesday.
A group of medics leaving Wuhan hugged their colleagues from the city goodbye as they prepared to board flights home.
- World-first lockdown -Wuhan led the world with an unprecedented quarantine lockdown on January 23 in a bid to stop the spread of the then-mysterious respiratory virus.
Chinese disease control officials said in January that the virus likely leapt from wildlife to humans at a Wuhan market that sold wild animals for food.
The rest of surrounding Hubei province quickly followed Wuhan, cutting tens of millions of people off from the world.
As the virus spread rapidly around the globe, many countries imposed similar draconian measures that have forced around half of humanity into some form of lockdown.
But while the pandemic continues to worsen in many other parts of the world, with the global death toll surpassing 80,000, the quarantine measures have appeared to pay off in Wuhan and other parts of China.
Its officially reported number of deaths and overall infections has plummeted in recent weeks.
China’s ruling Communist Party -- accused of a slow-footed response and an initial attempt to cover up the outbreak -- has portrayed its subsequent containment efforts as a huge success.
“Wuhan deserves to be called the city of heroes,” blared an announcement on one of the city’s train station PA systems on Wednesday.
“Wuhan has lost a lot in this epidemic, and Wuhan people have paid a big price,” a 21-year-old man surnamed Yao, who was heading back to his restaurant job in Shanghai, told AFP.

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