WUHAN/SHANGHAI, Jan. 1 (Reuters) – Thousands of people gathered in central Wuhan on Saturday night to mark a “harsh” 2022 filled with lockdowns and a new major epidemic in December. Countdown to the start of what many hoped would be a much better year to come. coronavirus.
As the clock struck midnight, many people released balloons into the sky and took selfies with their friends, following a tradition in a city in central China where the pandemic began three years ago.
“Last year, COVID-19 was so serious that I feel that some of my family members were hospitalized,” Wang, a 17-year-old Wuhan high school student, told Reuters from the riverside after midnight.
“I wish them a happy new year. This is the most important thing.”
Some came in fancy clothes and almost everyone in attendance wore masks.The wave of COVID accelerated after the curbs were dropped and has since infected a large portion of the population, An estimated 9,000 a day, according to UK-based Health. Data company Airfinity.
“Excuse me,” said a woman named Jin, referring to the possibility of re-infecting COVID-19.
“I was still scared when I came out tonight, but I just wanted to come out because everyone came out.”
The crowd, including Jin, packed particularly tightly in front of the old clock tower of Hankou Customs in Wuhan, was watched by numerous police officers, SWAT, unidentified plainclothes officers, and other guards. In late November, hundreds of people took part in lockdown demonstrations on the streets of cities across the country, including Wuhan. Following these protests, China has largely abandoned its draconian “zero COVID” policy of strict containment.
“These restrictions had been in place for so long that people were probably pretty frustrated,” said a 24-year-old Wuhan resident surnamed Chen who works in e-commerce. “
Police used loudspeakers in many places and played short messages on loops telling people not to gather, but people seemed to pay little to no attention.
People just wanted to have a good time.
“I am looking forward to the new year, but I am very nervous,” said Lili Zhao, 37, a kindergarten teacher in Wuhan.
In Shanghai, which, like many Chinese cities, went into a lengthy lockdown in 2022, many flocked to the Bund, a historic riverside promenade.
“We all came from Chengdu to celebrate in Shanghai,” said Da Dai, a 28-year-old digital media executive who is traveling with two friends. “We already have COVID, so we feel safe and enjoying ourselves right now.” The store wasn’t as crowded as last year.
A waiter at Lost Heaven restaurant near the Bund said, “It’s not as busy as last year. A few tables were empty, but he refused to give his name because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media. The restaurant has 200 people.” He said he had more than one booking, usually 20-30% more.
“People have been afraid of coming out since COVID policies were relaxed,” he said. “Hopefully next year will be better.”
Reported by Martin Quin Pollard from Wuhan and Engen Tham from Shanghai, edited by Louise Heavens
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