BEIJING -- Chinese authorities on Wednesday ended the monthslong lockdown of Wuhan, the first city ravaged by the novel coronavirus pandemic, allowing all citizens to freely move in and out of the isolated metropolis.
The restriction ended at midnight Wednesday, allowing citizens to leave the central Chinese metropolis if they possess documents certifying they have no health issues. Other areas in Hubei province already lifted travel bans on March 25, leaving Wuhan as the last place to maintain controls on movement.
According to Chinese authorities, 75 checkpoints were closed down, leading to throngs of cars filling roads. High speed railways stations were packed with people on Wednesday morning, many heading for the southern megacities, Guangzhou or Shenzhen, with an estimated 55,000 passengers leaving the city on Wednesday.
Domestic airways also resumed operations from the city, with authorities expecting at least 200 flights carrying more than 11,000 passengers landing in and departing from Wuhan.
As of Saturday, 97% of Wuhan's medium-to-large-sized industrial companies had resumed operations, though just 60% of employees were reporting for work. But that figure is expected to rise as workers forced to remain in other parts of the country will increasingly return to Wuhan as the transportation sector gets back up to speed.
On the other hand, some citizens remain cautious; a female college lecturer in the city told Nikkei Asian Review by email that she "would not go out for while, because there still remains a risk of getting infected."
China cut off all access to Wuhan on Jan. 23, shutting down connections to other cities via air travel, high-speed rail and expressways. Subways, buses and other forms of public transport inside the city halted operations.
The drastic measures were taken to prevent any of Wuhan's 11 million residents from traveling to other cities. Of the 3,331 confirmed coronavirus deaths in China, nearly 80% lived in Wuhan. The number of symptomatic patients exceeded 50,000.
The city eventually reported no new COVID-19 cases for an extended number of days, due partly to the shelter-in-place order and the construction of dedicated hospitals. In late March, travel into Wuhan by high-speed rail or highways was allowed. Public transportation in the city gradually restarted.
One exception will be travel from Wuhan to Beijing. Direct flights between the two cities will remain suspended. Those who enter Beijing from Wuhan reportedly will be asked to quarantine for two weeks. These measures apparently are in consideration of the annual National People's Congress, as the opening of China's legislature has been postponed from its usual early March date.