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In China, life returning to normal as coronavirus outbreak slows


"Look! What a giant fish!" Ding Shijiu exclaimed in joy after catching a carp from the lake where he normally goes fishing.

Sitting under a tree filled with spring blossoms on a warm day, Ding is finally able to catch up with old friends over some fishing sessions - something he has been unable to try and do since the coronavirus pandemic began to sweep across China in January, prompting a serious lockdown of cities and provinces across the country.

"The last two months felt surreal and, trust me, I'm almost 70 years old, and i have seen plenty of things," Yang said while pointing at his friends, unable to contain his excitement of seeing them again.

"But we're all still alive, and i am with great care happy that the worst has passed.

"This is that the first time I came back fishing at this lake since Lunar twelvemonth - I'm very happy," Yang said with a smile, before trying to reel in another fish.

Like many folks in China, Yang has spent nearly all of the last two months reception because the central government imposed unprecedented quarantine measures across the country in a very drastic bid to contain COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The central province of Hubei and its capital Wuhan, where the virus was thought to possess originated, were completely sealed.

As the number of COVID-19 cases confirmed overseas daily have surpassed those within China, the draconian measures that appear to possess quelled the outbreak domestically - particularly outside Hubei - are gradually being relaxed.

Chongqing, Yang's hometown bordering Hubei, has had quite 500 confirmed cases since the disease began to spill into the municipality. But now, there are no cases within the city for several days.

The slowdown isn't only in Chongqing. Across the country, 13 out of 34 provinces in China have cleared their remaining cases, and approximately 69,000 of 81,000 confirmed cases are discharged.

Even in Hubei, where some 10,000 cases remain, the pressure on front-line medical workers has eased. On day, the primary batch of nearly 4,000 medical workers who were parachuted into Wuhan to assist control the outbreak were able to leave.

With numerous provinces having downgraded their emergency response levels, China is slowly - and cautiously - returning to normal life.

Classes are gradually resuming after most students spent the last month about reception and studying online. In provinces classified as "low risk of infection," including Guizhou, Qinghai, Tibet and Xinjiang, local governments have allowed educational institutions to resume classes this month.

"I couldn't really focus while taking courses online, and that i can't afford to waste any longer time because the faculty test is in a very few months," said Ouyang Yanjiang, a student in Guiyang, touching on the highly competitive national exam that determines which college students can attend. "I'm glad that we are going back to high school."

Meanwhile, factories that were ordered to suspend operations also are beginning to obtain their assembly lines after what many small business owners who spoke to Al Jazeera described as something love a "near-death experience" for his or her companies.

According to the newest report released by China's National Bureau of Statistics, in January and February, the height of the outbreak within the country, the commercial output of the world's second-largest economy plummeted to very cheap point since 1998, and therefore the per centum soared to quite 6 percent, the best on record.

The suspension has pushed many businesses to near-bankruptcy, but because the quarantine measures are loosened, many are preparing for a rebound in production.

Cities that have a high density of producing industry, including Guangzhou and Shenzhen within the south, are organising their employees' return to figure and pushing for the resumption of long-suspended business.

For example, the assembly line of Woniu, a Guangzhou-based kitchenware factory, came to a halt on January 20 - the day the govt confirmed human transmission of the virus.

The head of the factory told Al Jazeera that, with their income near zero for the last two months, that they had been on the brink of closing down the ability permanently. But on March 9, their proposal to reopen was accepted by the govt, and that they are now back in business.

"It's still high to simply attain, but a minimum of we are now back to figure," Liu Lufei told Al Jazeera over a conversation session on Taobao, the net shopping site under Alibaba. "Dear God, that was a difficult time."

The harsh toll the outbreak took on people's lives also appears to be easing.

Chengdu, famous for its hotpots and foodie culture, now has only a dozen cases remaining and therefore the provincial government has said no new ones are detected over the past three weeks.


That has allowed a gradual reopening of restaurants, although people remain cautious.

In videos shared online, restaurant patrons line up ahead of the city's many hotpot restaurants - wearing masks and keeping a secure distance from one another.

During the height of the coronavirus outbreak, residents of Chengdu told the Al Jazeera news that the primary thing they planned to try and do when the emergency ended was to travel to a restaurant, "eating hotpots with friends and family".

For a city whose soul is "hotpot flavoured", as some playfully describe it, the reopening of Chengdu's hotpot restaurants gives residents an almost unparalleled reassurance that the worst of the outbreak has indeed passed.

"We are only allowed to simply accept 50 percent of our restaurant's maximum capacity for dine-in guests, and that is the rule for all restaurants in Sichuan (the surrounding province)," Xiao Ma, a waiter at Shudaxia, a famous hotpot restaurant in Chengdu, said. "But within the previous couple of days, we've been hitting that line almost non-stop. "

"People's taste buds are pent up for too long," Ma jokingly said.

Travel gradually being allowed
Apart from dining out, people also are gradually regaining their ability to travel. Many provinces and cities have steadily resumed their public transportation, including inter-provincial long-distance buses that were suspended across the country days after Wuhan was sealed on January 23.

Even in Hubei, the provincial epidemic prevention and control command has allowed "low and middle risk" areas, like Xianning and Yichang, to start operating transport again.


News coverage of the outbreak has also eased. In late January and February, it had been difficult to show on a television or use a transportable without constantly being exposed to news about the coronavirus - but with the epicentre shifting to Europe, many entertainment shows are reappearing on Chinese TV.

"Now I'm able to watch something on TV that's not about coronavirus, which was unimaginable last month," Zeng Yunru, a Wuhan resident, said. "It's funny that every one people gave the impression to have forgotten what our life was like before the virus."

Barbershops reopening, parks welcoming tourists again, migrant workers making their way back to their jobs - the calamity that disrupted China's society so completely seems to be receding steadily.

As life begins to return to normalcy, however, experts worry that there's still an underlying risk. There are worries that as soon because the expansive quarantine measures are lifted, China are going to be successful by a second wave of infection, especially because the coronavirus is now a worldwide pandemic and imported cases outnumber local ones.

China reported only 1 new domestic coronavirus case on Monday, in Hubei. Twenty other cases were of travellers getting back from overseas.

"I don't think anyone is saying the outbreak is over - only the worst seems to be over," Zeng said when asked about her concerns. "What we are able to do remains exercising social distancing and slowly driving our lives back to normal."

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