Thousands of Wuhan residents went to airports, train and bus stations after the Chinese epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak ended its 76-day lockdown on Wednesday.
The first trains left the city of 11 million people on Wednesday morning, with 55,000 people expected to leave Wuhan by rail. More than 10,000 people were also expected to leave Wuhan by plane by midday, as some flights resumed at Wuhan Tianhe Airport. However, flights to Beijing and international locations have not yet been restored.
"I haven't been outside for more than 70 days,'' Tong Zhengkun, a Wuhan resident, told the Associated Press. "Being indoors for so long drove me crazy."
Meanwhile, citizens waved flags and the city staged a celebratory light show featuring images of health workers assisting patients.
Despite the lifting of the ban on travel, however, schools are still closed and authorities have warned Wuhan residents not to leave their province, city or neighborhood unless the travel is essential. Additionally, people traveling from Wuhan to Beijing are required to go through two rounds of testing for the virus, while other cities and provinces require Wuhan travelers to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
The freedom of movement is also not without legal conditions. While residents are not required to have special authorization to leave anymore, they must still have a smartphone application that allows the Chinese government to track them, and shows that they are healthy and have not been in recent contact with anyone that has the virus.
During the lockdown, Wuhan residents were only permitted to leave their homes to buy food or conduct essential activities. The rest of Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, saw its lockdown lifted three weeks ago.
China has reported over 80,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 3,000 deaths since the country recorded its first instances of the virus in December of 2019. Most of those who were initially infected were reported to have worked at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, one of the suspected sources of the virus.
Internationally, doubts have been cast about the veracity of Chinese figures.
Globally, there are just over 1.4 million recorded cases of coronavirus, while over 80,000 have died due to the pandemic. Lockdowns have become one of the primary methods of managing the spread of the disease, with around one third of the world's population placed under some form of restriction.
lc/aw (Reuters, AP)