Wuhan shows the world that the end of lockdown is just the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis
Shanghai (CNN)All around the world, people are waiting for the announcement that the coronavirus pandemic is contained and they can return to normal life.
But the Chinese city at the center of the pandemic has shown that normal might still be a long way off.
When Wuhan officials eased outgoing travel restrictions on April 8, effectively ending the city’s 76-day lockdown, residents and local businesses soon learned that city’s actual reopening would be painfully slow.
Despite the lifting of most strict lockdown laws, many stores are still shut, restaurants are restricted to takeaway and even when citizens go outside they still wear protective equipment and try to avoid each other.
The mood on the ground is very different to the official statements. At a press conference on April 8, Luo Ping, an epidemic control official in Wuhan said that some sectors of the city were already back to 100% resumption rate.
In a meeting of the Wuhan government on April 25, they promised a “double victory” of success of the epidemic and economic growth.
But even government-controlled media has suggested that plans to get the city back to 100% production by the end of April might be “too optimistic.”
During a recent trip to the city, business owners told CNN that they were struggling with zero profits and huge rents and experts said that it might take the city’s economy months to recover, if not longer.
“In the short term, of course, there’s going to be a recovery,” said Larry Hu, economist at Macquarie Capital Limited. “Production will recover first and then consumption, because a lot of people are still reluctant to come out … but from a long term perspective, from a three-year perspective the virus is still going to hurt the long term growth of Wuhan.”
Struggling to recover
Wuhan is a metropolis with a population of more than a 11 million, larger than most US cities, and yet it is considered a second-tier size city within mainland China.
The capital of central China’s Hubei Province, Wuhan, is both a manufacturing and transportation hub for the rest of the country.
The original outbreak was first detected in Wuhan in mid-December, and as the outbreak worsened, the city sealed its borders from the rest of China on January 23 in an attempt to contain the spread.
Virtually overnight, life was halted. In some parts of the city people were confined to their homes for several months straight, unable to leave and relying on delivery services for groceries and other basic needs.
With the lockdown now over, the local government is keen to resume normal business as quickly as possible, as Beijing puts pressure on provinces to help boost a flailing economy.
But there are signs that despite the hopeful rhetoric, Hubei’s economy might take a long time to recover from the severe lockdown.