Wuhan residents recall nightmare of Covid-19 outbreak one year on

Streets are bustling, but locals describe the lingering psychological impact of the disease

Wu Mengjing, 22, (R) a student poses with her friend on a street, almost a year after the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province, China December 16, 2020. "I was shocked when the epidemic broke out in January. As a student in Wuhan, I was also very sad and hoped to make some contributions to the epidemic in Wuhan and the whole country," Mengjing said. Picture taken December 16, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

In China's Wuhan, the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic, the city's residents are returning to normal life even as they continue to grapple with memories of the early outbreak, which struck fear in the city.

It has been almost seven months since the city recorded a locally transmitted case of the disease as a result of a strict city-wide lockdown and mass testing of almost all the city's 11 million residents after the outbreak.

Today, restaurants, shopping streets and bars are crowded, but locals are still experiencing the lasting impact of the lockdown on mental health and work.

Reuters asked people throughout Wuhan to share images and videos they took during their outbreak, as well as their hopes for 2021, as the city approaches the one-year anniversary of the outbreak. City health officials released the first public notice of the then-unknown virus on December 31, 2019.

Like the city itself, most people are enduringly optimistic, even as they reflect on the city's toughest year in recent memory.

An Junming, Wuhan volunteer

Mr An worked as a volunteer during the city's 76-day lockdown, delivering food to people trapped in their homes.

"At that time, I could only eat one meal a day, because there was indeed a lot of work to do, but there were very few people doing this, so I was very anxious.

An Junming poses for a picture on a street, almost a year after the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province, China December 15, 2020. Junming who worked as a volunteer during the city's lockdown delivering food to people said: "At that time, I could only eat one meal a day, because there was indeed a lot of work to do, but there were very few people doing it, so I was very anxious." Picture taken December 15, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

"I hope that the entire city will prosper in 2021.

"It can be said that in 2020 there were no people on the streets of the whole Wuhan – only animals were active outside."

Zhang Xinhao, lead singer of the band Mad Rat

"At that time, I couldn't do anything at home. It was very boring, so I thought I needed to write some music and sing some songs to find some fun in my life.

"It made me reflect on a lot of things, and it is the first time in my life that I have experienced such a disaster.

Zhang Xinghao, lead singer of band Mad Rat, poses for a picture almost a year after the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province, China December 9, 2020. "At that time, I couldn't do anything at home. It was very boring, so I thought I needed to write some music and sing some songs to find some fun in my life," Xinghao said. Picture taken December 9, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

"The epidemic must not be ignored. I see that the news about foreign countries has a lot of infections, so this must not be ignored. We should not think that we are very powerful. In fact, I think we humans are quite fragile."

Duan Ling 36, businesswoman

Ms Duan's husband, Fang Yushun, caught Covid-19 in February while working as a surgeon.

"I had my birthday on the day he was hospitalised during the epidemic, and he spent a day editing and sent a video to me. So I felt very moved.

Duan Ling, 36, and her husband Fang Yushun walk on a street, almost a year after the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province, China December 16, 2020. Fang, who is a doctor, contracted COVID-19 and recovered after receiving treatment while working during the outbreak. Picture taken December 16, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

"We have experienced a lot of things in the year 2020, and I want to say goodbye to the 2020. But in the new year, I wish we could have a baby."

Lai Yun, 38, Japanese restaurant owner

"At this time, every one of us in Wuhan feels like time flies very fast. Like closing the city only feels like yesterday."

Mr Lai said he cherished memories of his children putting on performances in the family living room.

Lai Yun, 38, chef and owner of a Japanese restaurant, poses for a picture at his restaurant almost a year after the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province, China December 8, 2020. "At this time, every one of us in Wuhan feels like time flies very fast. Like closing the city only feels like yesterday," Yun said. Picture taken December 8, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

"I think the inspiration that Covid-19 gives us is that a healthy body is more important than anything else."

Wu Mengjing, 22, designer

"I think the Wuhan epidemic has affected too many people. Many companies went bankrupt and residents were unemployed. This has a great impact on the entire development of Wuhan.

"I am very worried that there will be a second wave in Wuhan, because there were some recurrences of the epidemic in various parts of the country, and the number of college students in Wuhan is particularly large."

Jiang Honghua, 34, street food vendor 

"During the epidemic, our whole family is together, and this time like this is very rare, and I felt very happy,” said Ms Jiang, sharing photos of her son and daughter playing.

Jiang Honghua, 34, poses for a picture at her food stall almost a year after the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province, China December 14, 2020. "I thought my year in 2020 was actually ok, I felt lucky that I could maintain the livelihood of the whole family. I hope in 2021 I can have a good business," Honghua said. Picture taken December 14, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

"I thought my year in 2020 was actually OK – I felt lucky that I could maintain the livelihood of the whole family. I hope in year 2021 I can have good business."

Liu Runlian, 58, street dancer

"2021 is coming, and I don't expect much from myself. But I want to live a peaceful life, and then I hope everyone is safe."

Liu Runlian, 58, poses for a picture almost a year after the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province, China December 14, 2020. "2021 is coming, and I don't expect much from myself. But I want to live a peaceful life, and then I hope everyone is safe," Runlian said. Picture taken December 14, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song
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