People living in Wuhan have finally been able to leave 76 days after draconian measures were imposed to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
Anyone who has a ‘green’ QR code on a smartphone health app is now allowed to exit the city that once was the Covid-19 epicentre for the first time since 23 January.
Pictures show thousands of residents queueing up at stations to leave the metropolis, as trains began running and major motorways opened at 00.50am on Wednesday.
Two hundred flights with 10,000 passengers are scheduled to depart Wuhan today, where the pandemic is believed to have started in an outdoor street market.
Wuhan has a population of around 11 million, with some 65,000 people believed to have left the city within hours of restrictions being lifted.
The country reported no deaths on Tuesday for the first time since it began publishing figures – although it comes amid concerns of a second wave of infections on the Chinese mainland.
Authorities said 2,571 people had died as a result of the outbreak in Wuhan at the beginning of the week, while more than 50,000 people have been infected with the virus overall.
The death toll accounts for around 80% of all fatalities in China, according to official figures.
The UK overtook China’s reported death toll last Friday, with 6,159 people now losing their lives to coronavirus.
The lift of the Wuhan lockdown was reportedly marked with a light show on the broad Yangtze river.
Skyscrapers and bridges across the city showed images of healthcare workers helping patients, with one displaying the words ‘heroic city’ – a name that President Xi Jinping has bestowed on Wuhan.
Authorities have slowly reopened the city, with shopping malls springing back into life last month after the city reported its first full week with no new infections.
Those who work in making medical supplies and other daily goods will now be allowed to go back to their jobs, while others who are employed in industries linked to national or global supply chains will also be able to return to work. Some restrictions remain, with certain limits on transport staying in place and schools still closed until further notice.
While Wuhan is reopening, new imported cases in the northern province of Heilongjiang recently surged to a daily high of 25, fuelled by an influx of infected travellers arriving from Russia. Suifenhe City in Heilongjiang restricted the movement of its citizens on Wednesday in a similar fashion to measures previously seen across Wuhan.
Residents must stay in their residential compounds and one person from a family can leave once every three days to buy necessities and must return on the same day, according to state-run CCTV.
In Jiaozhou City in the eastern province of Shandong the risk level has risen from low to medium, according to a post on an official website, but it gave no further information.