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China to lift two-month lockdown in Hubei

China to lift two-month lockdown in Hubei

BEIJING: Chinese authorities said on Tuesday they will end a two-month lockdown of most of coronavirus-hit Hubei province at midnight, as domestic cases of what has become a global pandemic subside.

People with a clean bill of health will be allowed to leave, the provincial government said, easing restrictions on movement that were unprecedented in scale. The city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in December, is to remain locked down until April 8.

China barred people from leaving or entering Wuhan beginning Jan 23 in a surprise middle-of-the-night announcement and expanded that to most of the province in succeeding days. Trains and flights were canceled and checkpoints set up on roads into the central province.




The drastic steps came as the coronavirus began spreading to the rest of China and overseas during the Lunar New Year holiday, when millions of Chinese travel.

The virus raged for weeks in Wuhan, the provincial capital, and surrounding cities. Hospitals overflowed, and temporary ones were hastily set up to try to isolate the growing number of infected patients. More than 2,500 people have died in Wuhan out of 3,270 nationwide.

The outbreak has since been brought under control, and Hubei has seen almost no new infections for more than a week.

The move to end the lockdown showed the authorities’ apparent faith in the success of the drastic measures as they try to kick start the world’s second-largest economy and put money in the pockets of workers, many of whom have gone weeks without pay. It remained unclear, however, which cities and provinces, including Beijing, the capital, would allow people from Hubei to enter their jurisdictions.

About 120,000 migrant workers, including many who had made the traditional trip home to Hubei for Lunar New Year, have already been allowed to leave in recent days on special buses and trains, according to Chinese media reports. The reports said manufacturing centres such as Guangdong and Zhejiang province are open to people from Hubei, Outside of Hubei, the government says work has restarted on about 90 percent of major public construction projects across the country. While many migrant workers remain trapped by travel restrictions and quarantines, factories are operating again, though not at full capacity.

In the Beijing area, the city zoo and parts of the Great Wall reopened this week, though they required advance reservations to limit the number of visitors. Some restaurants were reopening for business, some on the condition that customers do not sit facing each other.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2020

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