Wuhan: Celebrations as the city becomes Covid-free but blame hangs heavy in the air

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Debi Edwards

The last time we came to Wuhan it was in April for the end of the city’s 76-day coronavirus lockdown.

We were met off the train by teams of officials in hazmat suits, we were tested for Covid-19 and when we went back to Beijing, we faced two weeks of strictly monitored quarantine - and another test. 

So it was rather surreal to return this week and film at a pool party packed with hundreds of people, young and old, splashing around screaming and singing with unbridled delight to European dance music being played by a DJ on a stage. 

We arrived for the final night of a summer festival which was given the go ahead after the city was declared virus free.

It has been sold out almost every night.

People here are revelling in their recovery and desperate to have a good time and make up for the months spent in lockdown.

When the festival opened a few weeks ago and the first videos and pictures of crowds of people in Wuhan celebrating and enjoying themselves surfaced, they were criticised and met with some resentment in the rest of the world.

Footage from the pool party in Wuhan was circulated around the world to mixed reception. Credit: ITV News

Questions were raised about whether it was really safe in the place where the outbreak began, some people even appeared to be appalled that the city would dare to party, could look so carefree, when so many other countries are still gripped by the pandemic.

 At the night market, in fact, in general, there is no social distancing.

Masks are worn by the majority, but they have become an optional accessory, and many were wearing them around their chin.

Part of the reason it feels safe to party here and have your mask low slung or off completely is that almost everyone in the city, including our team, has been quarantined and tested and is having their health and movements monitored on a daily basis.

One stall owner at the market described Wuhan as the safest place in China, if not the world.

This morning, all of Wuhan's schools - which have remained shut since January - finally reopened.

Students in Wuhan return to school. Credit: ITV News

Almost 3,000 schools opened their doors, and 1.4 million pupils have now returned to their classrooms where strict hygiene measures will be enforced.

All students were made to watch a series of videos on hand washing, mask wearing (compulsory in educational facilities) and on how to conduct themselves at home and on school transport.

There was an advisory put out to parents to have students avoid using public transport.

But while everything here appears to be getting back to normal, there is a strong undercurrent of grief and anger.

We met Yang Min, who believes her daughter’s death, and those of thousands of others since, could have been prevented. 

Yu Xi was infected in the days before Wuhan locked down.

The 24-year-old died shortly after, on February 6.

Yang Min spoke to ITV News about her daughter's death. Credit: ITV News

In a very emotional interview, Min said she wants justice for her daughter’s death.

She thinks there are officials in Wuhan who should be punished for covering up the truth about the pandemic.

She demands that they be questioned by the police and punished if they have committed a crime.

It was heartbreaking to hear her talk about what happened to her daughter, she would repeat her age over and over, saying: "She was so tall, she was 172cm, she was so beautiful."

Her daughter was a talented violinist and had won a university scholarship.

Yang Min also lost her brother-in-law to the virus and she herself was hospitalised for a month.

She fell ill a few days after her daughter and was being treated in another facility when Yu Xi died in intensive care.

The city of Wuhan sits in the distance as people enjoy the water. Credit: ITV News

For now, at least, the government isn’t focused on finding answers for Yang Min, or any other families in China, who have lost loved ones to Covid-19.

The priority is keeping the virus at bay.

They are partying in Wuhan because it is officially safe to do so, and because the people here deserve it, after what they and their families have been through.

But Covid-19 has cast a shadow over this city and blame still hangs heavy in the air.