Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A medical worker from China's Jilin Province, in red, embraces a colleague from Wuhan as she prepares to return home at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, in central China's Hubei Province, on April 8, 2020.

The Associated Press

Walking through departure halls echoing with the swells of triumphant music, streams of mask-wearing people boarded planes and trains Wednesday in Wuhan, leaving the city for the first time since it was closed off to slow the spread of a deadly virus that first took root inside its limits.

April 8 marked what state media called the “unsealing of Wuhan,” an end to a 76-day lockdown. The queues of people looking to leave began before midnight, with 276 passenger trains and 111 flights set to leave the city throughout the day. At the stroke of midnight, police rolled away highway barriers, a potent image of the city breaking out of more than two months of medical imprisonment.

Hours later, long lines formed outside office buildings as employees waited to pass health screening procedures before being allowed back into their workplaces – a sign that fear of the virus continues to permeate life in the city, despite official reassurances that it has been contained, with only two new cases in the past two weeks.

Story continues below advertisement

China reports drop in imported coronavirus cases

‘Out-of-home quarantine’ measures in China helped limit spread of COVID-19, epidemiologists say

The risks of a new outbreak were dramatically underscored Wednesday thousands of kilometres from Wuhan, in Suifenhe, a small northeastern city that went into lockdown after a resurgence in cases blamed on Chinese citizens arriving from Russia.

In Wuhan’s international airport, however, loudspeakers played a song that has become a cheerful virus anthem: “To the ends of the world and the edge of the Earth, if we know each other, there’s no place that can be too near or too far away.” Across the city, cheers erupted for the end of a long and painful lockdown.

”It’s a sunny day, which makes everything look more hopeful,” said Luo Sisi, a Wuhan restaurateur who owns a small chain of hot dry noodle shops. He sensed a psychological spring sweeping in, “a feeling that reminds us that we’ve finished the first phase” of the virus.

Travellers wearing masks and suits to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus walk past people holding a celebratory banner at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in central China's Hubei province, Wednesday, April 8, 2020.

Ng Han Guan/The Associated Press

The city’s economic and social functions have “changed from ‘suspended’ to fully ‘restarted,’ ” the state-run Beijing News declared.

But for many in Wuhan, a new kind of hardship is just beginning. They have emerged from their homes into an invasive public-health surveillance regime that closely tracks people’s movements, as officials fear a second wave of the virus.

People going to work must carry formal declarations from their company. Others can leave home for just two hours at a time – and only after submitting to frequent scans of codes that record and communicate personal information with authorities.

The codes are coloured, with green allowing free passage and red meaning movement is not allowed. The colours can change quickly to reinstate lockdown measures in areas where the virus re-emerges.

Story continues below advertisement

“People have to scan their code to report their movements wherever they go,” said Guo Jing, who runs a legal advice hotline for women. “It makes me feel like I am living under surveillance – as if I am being supervised by someone. It’s enough to make me lose interest in going out.”

A man wearing a face mask rides a bicycle on a street in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on Wednesday, as travel restrictions to halt the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus were lifted in the city. Thousands of Chinese travellers rushed to leave COVID-19 coronavirus-ravaged Wuhan as authorities lifted a more than two-month prohibition on outbound travel from the city where the global pandemic first emerged.


WHO’s early coronavirus response raises awkward questions about Beijing relationship

I have experienced China’s approach to coronavirus quarantine for travellers – and there are lessons within

Some residents simply refused to step outside, skeptical of official assurances that the virus has been contained – echoing concerns in other countries about the trustworthiness of China’s outbreak statistics.

Others tried and failed to navigate the unforgiving public-health rules. Train tickets to Beijing, for example, could only be purchased by those authorized by an app, run by the capital, that could take days to respond to requests.

Large numbers of empty seats on trains and planes departing Wuhan pointed to widespread problems.

On MU2527, the China Eastern flight that was first to leave at 7:25 a.m. Wednesday, fewer than 50 of 134 seats were filled, local media reported. On the first bullet train out of Wuhan, roughly two-thirds of the seats remained empty. Local officials said they expected 55,000 people to board trains out of the city, barely half the normal passenger volume.

Those travelling to major centres such as Beijing faced even greater obstacles, with authorities requiring a negative nucleic-acid test in Wuhan and another in the capital before people could enter another mandatory 14-day quarantine there.

In Wuhan, too, the reopening is only partial, with some areas still largely closed down because the risk is considered too high. For Mr. Luo, that means some of his noodle outlets have been able to reopen while others remain closed. Hanyang district “isn’t 100 per cent safe for business, so we are still waiting on the government’s order,” he said.

Even so, “it’s very obvious that there are more pedestrians outside today,” he said.

But Li Heng, a woman who rescues pets and has been living under lockdown with 64 cats and dogs, remained inside Wednesday.

“We should be able to go out if we want to, but we hear that there are many asymptomatic people out there, so we’d rather stay inside,” she said.

A worker in a protective suit is seen at a Dongfeng Honda factory after lockdown measures in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and China's epicentre of the novel coronavirus disease outbreak, were further eased on Wednesday.

ALY SONG/Reuters

It wasn’t until last week that Chinese authorities began releasing official numbers of people who tested positive for the virus but showed no symptoms. Even then, the figure released March 31 – 1,541 asymptomatic cases under observation – was a small fraction of the number found by researchers studying the virus in other places.

Scholars in Japan have studied passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship as well as Japanese people who had returned from Wuhan. They estimated that between 18 per cent and 30 per cent of people who contract the virus show no symptoms.

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Li saw further reason for skepticism. Some residential compounds in Wuhan remain locked down. Schools are still closed. It all “indicates that the situation is still awful,” she said. Being inside isn’t much better: “We live in daily fear, scared the police will come to the door and seize our dogs.”

Mr. Luo, meanwhile, was optimistic.

“We’ve lived through the hardest time. There’s no reason for fear now,” he said. “What is important is that we don’t relax our vigilance.”

With reporting by Alexandra Li

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters.

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies