Some of the original opinions and research in this article can be attributed to Ben Wescott and David Culver of CNN.
Daily figures on the COVID-19 pandemic reflect something remarkable. China, where the virus first appeared, is no longer the epicentre of the outbreak. In fact, it’s not even in the top five countries with the most infected cases and virus fatalities.
With most of China having been placed under some form of lockdown for months, the country is finally beginning to emerge from its national quarantine. The government, optimistic thanks to the much-decreased infection rate, has been tentatively relaxing restrictions and allowing people back out into the public again.
At the peak of the outbreak, China was reporting thousands of new coronavirus cases daily. This led to the government placing the entire country under strict lockdown measures for months. In recent weeks, however, the rate of infection has slowed significantly. On Monday (Apr 6), China declared only 39 new cases, which were all imported except for one. Currently, China’s case count stands at 81,708, and the country has had 3,331 deaths caused by the virus.
With people now being given more personal freedoms, Chinese health experts are urging people to continue to practice caution and observe proper hygiene.
Releasing people from lockdown, however, is akin to releasing a wild animal from its too-small cage. People have been cooped up, suffering from “lockdown fever” (a COVID-19 version of cabin fever) and dying to be set free.
Over the weekend, China celebrated the Qing Ming Jie holidays. Newly-released from lockdown, people flocked to popular leisure spots and tourist destinations across major Chinese cities. Despite strict warnings from health authorities that risk of catching COVID-19 still remained high, people were not to be deterred to exercise their recently-returned freedoms.
So they gathered. In large numbers. And though many people can be seen wearing masks, like in the rather shocking image below from the Huangshan mountain park in Anhui province, they are packed distressingly close together, social distancing be damned.
“China is not near the end, but has entered a new stage. With the global epidemic raging, China has not reached the end,” said Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in a conversation with Health Times last week.