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China lifts Wuhan lockdown after 76 days

About 55,000 people are expected to leave the city, where the pandemic began, on the first day

After 76 days in lockdown, the Chinese city at the heart of the global pandemic reopened on Wednesday, and tens of thousands immediately hopped on trains and planes to leave. Elsewhere, the economic, political and psychological toll of fighting the virus grew increasingly clear and more difficult to bear.

Also read: Coronavirus | Locked-down no longer, China’s Hubei begins return to normal

In the Chinese city of 11 million where the pandemic began, residents waved flags and the city staged a light show with skyscrapers and bridges radiating images of health workers helping patients.

More than 50,000 people in Wuhan were infected, and over 3,300 deaths were reported, about 80% of all deaths in China, according to official figures.

“I haven’t been outside for more than 70 days,” said Tong Zhengkun. “Being indoors for so long drove me crazy.”

Some 55,000 people were expected to leave Wuhan by train on Wednesday. By early morning, more than 10,000 had left by plane, an airport official said. Flights to Beijing and international locations have not resumed.

People from Wuhan arriving in Beijing must undergo two rounds of testing for the virus.

Need for caution

“We are acutely aware that we must not relax as we have not claimed final victory,” Hubei Vice-Governor Cao Guangjin said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“We need to remain calm, and be just as cautious at the end as at the beginning.”

Across the Atlantic, New York City endured one of its darkest days yet, with the death toll surging past 4,000, hundreds more than the number killed on 9/11. New York state recorded 731 new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, its biggest one-day jump yet, for a statewide total of nearly 5,500.

New York’s Mayor acknowledged on Wednesday that the true death toll is even higher because the city’s count does not include people who died at home without ever being tested for the virus. “We’re talking about something like 100, 200 people per day,” Bill de Blasio said.

Across the U.S., the death toll reached about 13,000, with approximately 4,00,000 confirmed infections.

More economic pain was felt. Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, could contract by a record 25% this quarter, the highest since gross domestic product began to be tracked in 1955. The dismal prediction by two economists said exports are expected to dive 60% in the April-June period.

Europe has been scrambling to put together billions of euros to save lives and prevent bankruptcies. The countries worst hit by the virus are among those that can least afford the costs, like Italy and Spain. But they disagree over how to tackle the challenge.

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