The COVID-19 contrast has flipped, with the difference between Wuhan and the rest of the world as jolting as it was a year ago.
This time, however, the Chinese city was having fun celebrating the new year, while most other major cities held extremely muted New Year’s festivities.
Wuhan — the epicenter of the pandemic 12 months ago — hosted huge gatherings Thursday night into Friday, joining Australia and New Zealand with relatively normal celebrations.
It was almost exactly a year ago that the virus was taking hold in China. With 2019 drawing to a close, thousands partied in front of Wuhan’s Jianghan Road Customs House as health authorities announced a pneumonia outbreak connected to a seafood market.
The city reported the first COVID-19 cluster exactly a year ago, on December 31, 2019, but reacted swiftly.
Wuhan enforced a strict lockdown of its 11 million citizens for 76 days, and, since May, it has been free from the virus.
So, as 2020 drew to a close, Wuhan revelers hit the streets. Some wore masks, but there was very little social distancing in festivities at the Hankow Customs House — a popular New Year’s Eve spot in Wuhan, according to Reuters.
Police told people to wear masks if they wanted to continue the celebration. They put up fences around the Customs House clock tower, but that proved fruitless because so many young people turned out.
The virus’ origin and the timeline of its spread remain unclear, though new evidence showed it may have been circulating for months before the Wuhan announcement.
Research from China shows people were getting sick in Wuhan in November and early December, and one analysis suggested that the virus may have started there in late summer.