April 8th marked as a landmark day for Wuhan, as the city ended its 76-day lockdown Wednesday morning, allowing residents to again travel in and out of the city without special authorization.
Long lines formed at the airport and train and bus stations as thousands streamed out of the city to return to their homes and jobs elsewhere. According to an airport official, the first flight left Wuhan Tianhe International Airport at 7:25 a.m. for Sanya, a coastal city in Hainan province known for its beaches.
Electric car maker Tesla has reopened its showroom in the city. Meanwhile, the Wuhan International Plaza, featuring luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, is also open for business.
With coronavirus cases on the wane in China, the government is now turning its focus to revitalising its stalled economy. The country was the origin of the global pandemic, but official figures have shown a marked decrease in the number of cases in recent weeks.
Figures show the Chinese economy shrank by 21 percent in the opening two months of the year, with sales in the automotive sector down 79 percent in February. It was the biggest ever monthly fall in the world’s largest market for vehicles. The central bank recently cut the interest rates on loans to banks by 20 basis points, a surprise move, and the largest in five years.
China’s role as the world’s factory means any economic recovery may depend on demand. With the pandemic yet to hit its peak in much of the rest of the world, appetite for Chinese goods will be muted. Officials are still expecting imports and exports to be much reduced in the coming months.
The country is still worried by the threat of a second wave of the virus spreading as Chinese students return home from abroad. It has cancelled many international flights and barred access to almost all foreigners. Recently released data from China indicates around 78 percent of carriers may be asymptomatic, making efforts to contain the disease even more difficult. These carriers show no symptoms but can be contagious.
Zhong Nanshan, a senior medical adviser to the Chinese government, said the best way to avoid another outbreak would be to keep asymptomatic individuals in isolation for 14 days.
China’s progress will be a taste of the future for many other governments around the world. All eyes will be on its exit strategy.