Beijing, 29 March 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Airports throughout much of China’s Hubei province, the initial epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, reopened on Sunday as more than two months of lockdown measures came to an end outside of the provincial capital Wuhan.
Domestic passenger and cargo flights restarted at three airports in the province, reconnecting Hubei with over a dozen other airports throughout China, a signal of how far the country has come since the depths of the outbreak.
In the hard-hit city of Wuhan, measures have also begun to be relaxed, with high-speed trains stopping in the city on Saturday for the first time since the lockdown began on January 23, local media reported.
Passengers could disembark at Wuhan but boarding remains prohibited until April 8, when outbound travel restrictions on the city are scheduled to be lifted.
Train services within the city of more than 11 million also resumed on the same day.
According to the municipal railways department, Saturday saw more than 60,000 people aboard more than 260 train services from throughout the country arrive at the city, an important hub in the nation’s rail network.
The number of trains stopping at the city represent only about a quarter of regular services, a railway official said.
Chinese news site The Paper reported that the arriving passengers were Wuhan residents “coming home” after becoming trapped elsewhere in the country and being unable to return to the city due to the lockdown.
Speaking to reporters several days after the city was put under quarantine, the mayor of Wuhan estimated that about 5 million residents left the city in the hours before the lockdown came into effect.
The lockdown on January 23 also coincided with the Lunar New Year Festival holiday that sees many urban-dwellers return to their family’s homes outside of their current city of residence.
The coronavirus appears to have surfaced at a market in Wuhan late last year. It has spread across the globe, with the outbreak’s epicentres moving to Europe and the United States as China’s cases fall. More than 30,000 people have died.
China reported 45 new cases of coronavirus and five more Covid-19 deaths on Sunday, 44 of which were imported cases detected in recent travellers, the country’s National Health Commission said.
The single locally transmitted case was in Henan province in central China.
At a press conference on Sunday, the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of China’s State Council proclaimed that “local transmission has already been basically stopped” within the country’s borders.
Since its outbreak in December last year, 3,300 people in China have died after contracting the virus, which has infected more than 80,000 people across the country.
Within Wuhan alone, 2,543 have died and more than 50,000 have been infected.