A year after reporting the first case of COVID-19, Wuhan is celebrating being virus-free

  • Life in Wuhan, China, is largely back to normal as the city claims it’s virus-free.
  • A year ago, Wuhan reported the first case of COVID-19, and residents went into a strict 76-day lockdown.
  • But many families are still grappling with the loss of loved ones, blaming the government for concealing the severity of the outbreak.
  • Countries around the world have also accused China of misleading the public as they continue to fight the pandemic.
  • View more episodes of Business Insider Today on Facebook.

This is life on the other side of the pandemic.

Wuhan, China — the city that reported the world’s first COVID-19 case a year ago — claims it’s now virus-free.

Around the city, life is returning to normal, with residents emerging their homes to shop, enjoy nightlife, and even attend pool parties.

“Wuhan has restarted,” Wuhan resident An An said. “Life has returned to the kind of flavour we had before. So everyone living in Wuhan feels at ease.”

Here, the pandemic is history. A new museum exhibition celebrates the city’s triumph over the outbreak.

One bar even has a craft beer called “Wuhan Stay Strong” commemorating the 76-day lockdown, with labels that peel back to show images of what those long weeks were like.

“We wanted to find a way to let people know our story of what the city and its people endured,” brewery owner Wang Fan said.

But the memories of what people endured as Wuhan struggled to contain the coronavirus are still fresh.

Yang Yuanyin closed his restaurant in January as the city imposed a strict lockdown. He headed to a newly built hospital to cook meals for staff and patients, leaving his family behind.

“My wife and my mother didn’t want me to leave,” Yang, the owner of Yuanyin Jia Restaurant, told Business Insider Today. “I told my wife that you have my savings account, please raise our kid until he becomes an adult in case I don’t come back.”

He did come back and reopen his restaurant after Wuhan lifted its lockdown in April, but recovery was gradual.

“The business was very bad then,” Yang said. “We mainly relied on takeout and regular customers. Very few people would come to the restaurant. In July, the restaurant started to be packed with customers on weekends again.”

Others have had a harder time moving forward.

Zhong Hanneng’s son died from COVID-19 in February. She never got to see him in the hospital — something that still haunts her now.

“I’m always thinking that he suffered a lot,” Zhong said. “Because of the virus, family couldn’t accompany him. He must have been so scared, so unhappy with no family around. I can’t imagine how sad he was. Did he call out ‘Mother’? ‘Father’? I don’t know. We don’t know.”

Her family is one of several in Wuhan trying to sue the government for concealing the outbreak and mishandling the response — an accusation that’s been echoed by countries around the world as they continue to battle the pandemic.

A recent report by CNN based on leaked documents from the disease control and prevention centre in Hubei province revealed the extent to which China misled the public by underreporting case numbers and death tolls.

The Chinese government has rejected these charges, as well as the lawsuits from families who blame local authorities for the deaths of their loved ones.

“Our family is shattered,” said Zhong. “After this, we can never be happy again.”

While some continue grieving, Wuhan is moving on.

But behind the crowded streets of commuters and schoolchildren, the packed workout sessions, and the bustling night markets, the trauma of thousands of lost lives lingers.

And with China intent on showing that it’s put the pandemic in its past, Wuhan may never know the true extent of its suffering.