Wuhan, the sprawling capital of central China’s Hubei province home to about 11 million residents, was the first place hit by the coronavirus in December 2019. In January, the Chinese central government imposed a sweeping 76-day lockdown on the city and its surrounding area—seen by the rest of the world as an unprecedented move at the time. The lockdown was finally lifted on April 8.“The rest of the world didn’t believe us that an epidemic was unfolding,” Gan said of the lockdown that she and her family endured.
“It’s easy to look at the pictures of the pool party and pass it off as Chinese people being socially irresponsible,” business executive Gan Zhixiu told VICE News.
“But do not forget how it must have felt like for all of us actually living in Wuhan who were the first people in the world to experience such unsettling beginnings of an unknown and dangerous virus that was emerging and then being forced under state lockdown in our homes.”
She added that she now rarely wears face masks when she goes out to meet friends or run errands.“There are still routine health and safety checks, but they aren’t as strictly enforced anymore. Bars and nightclubs have reopened and there are markets for families and street dance competitions too. You can venture out onto the streets and see food vendors and buskers in the alleys again,” she said proudly. “A lot of local residents can participate in outdoor activities freely again. People feel that it’s safe to go out and are more at ease about gathering.” China announced a temporary ban on inbound tourism in March, citing the "rapid spread of Covid-19 across the world.” And with international tourism stalled, the Chinese government is banking heavily on domestic tourism to revive the economy. Cities across China have recently hosted large scale events, according to The New York Times. A week-long beer festival was held in Wuhan days after the controversial pool party and a gaming convention that attracted thousands took place in Shanghai according to The Times.
“But the view that my friends and I have now is that life has largely returned to normal. There isn’t a sense of widespread panic or a lingering shadow from the virus hanging over us anymore—but it isn’t because we are letting our guards down. There just haven't been reports of new coronavirus cases in Wuhan for a long time,” she said.
“I don’t think an event like that would have been done casually,” he told VICE News. “Scientists and public health authorities in Wuhan would have made their calculations and worked out that the risk of mass events is now so low that they can be held safely.”
Singapore-based infectious disease expert Paul Tambyah expressed optimism on global efforts in combating the coronavirus and said the Wuhan pool party was likely organized with great care.
Gan says that she often looks back on the year Wuhan had and feels a sense of relief. “China and the rest of the world haven’t conquered the virus completely,” she said. “But I speak for many of us in Wuhan when I say that we are happy to be able to move past the trauma. The important thing is that we survived.”
“We will know whether or not Wuhan was right quite soon,” he said. “Because if we do not see a spike in COVID-19 cases in Wuhan within two weeks, it will send a powerful message that it may be safe to hold such mass events once locally transmitted cases drop below a certain level and imported cases are virtually eliminated.”