t a time when vaccines against Covid-19 are being rolled out in phases in many countries across the world, there are reports of palpable anger and dismay from Wuhan. Just about this time last year this Chinese city earned the opprobrium of being the villain of the piece for the global pandemic. Side by side, relaxed scenes are also being witnessed with elderly dancers pirouetting in parks and crowded bars selling “Wuhan Stay Strong” craft beer. This is in sharp contrast to continuing lockdowns, surging death rates and hospitals teeming with corona-hit patients and, above all, crumbling economies in other countries. Most countries have, in the meantime, adopted a hide and move ahead policy for facing this crisis. Administrations across the globe are said to be lowering testing numbers, hiding death numbers and refraining from reporting positive cases.
The current show in Wuhan could be yet another Chinese strategy to impress the World Health Organisation (WHO) team camping there to investigate how the virus is believed to have originated from that place. On the first anniversary of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, the people are annoyed with the government’s narrative of triumphalism. Many feel it is too soon for the government to declare victory. Those among them, who have lost their relatives in the pandemic, barely conceal their anger at the government for not acting more quickly and openly.
Exactly a year back, Wuhan gave global currency to the hated word – lockdown – and government after government had to herd their people into their homes and accept the choice of economic paralysis. Now, Wuhan is observing the anniversary with a fair dose of pride which may be contrived by the government. There are confirmed reports that there is usual hustle and bustle on the streets and sidewalks and citizens are packing public transport and parks. According to news clips emanating from that city, young joggers on the streets even go maskless. One of them declared “Life is like before now.”
But memories of Wuhan’s ordeal are fresh among many citizens who feel the government let them down with its inadequate response in the early stage. The anger then was so uncontrollable that when Vice Premier Sun Chunlan visited Wuhan during quarantine in March, 2020, she was greeted with shouts that the government’s claim of fighting the pandemic was “fake.” Such belligerence is unthinkable in China, but it did happen. The wounds are still raw for many. The virus has killed at least two million people globally, but in China the authorities have reported fewer than 5,000 deaths with Wuhan accounting for most of them. It is likely that China has dished out an official propaganda narrative on Wuhan as an example of “heroic” Chinese response and recovery.
People of Wuhan, the industrial and transportation hub along the Yangtze river with a population of 11 million, started falling ill in December 2019. The growing number of patients sent alarm bells ringing, prompting China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to dispatch a team to investigate. The city was locked down on January 23, 2020 with little or no warning. The hardships endured and lives lost became a source of both sorrow and pain for residents once the 76-day-long lockdown was lifted on April 8. Today, citizens across the world can claim to have suffered in the same manner.
The lockdown anniversary coincides with the presence in Wuhan of WHO experts who, in a few days, are to begin a planned investigation into the origins of Covid-19. The WHO, however, is quick to dismiss the impression that it is moving from conclusion to premise regarding the origin of the pandemic. “All hypotheses are on the table,” said WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan.
A commentary in the Beijing News praised the aggressive lockdown as a model for the world while noting Wuhan’s sacrifices and the persistent virus threat. “We must not lose the hard-won results of the epidemic to negligence. Pay tribute to Wuhan and fearless Chinese people,” it said. This is all very good. But humanity will be truly served on this anniversary if China cooperates with the WHO team to find out the genesis of the pandemic and understand the virus better instead of suppressing truth. China is sole creator of the massive crisis. It started off with falsehood and kept the seriousness of the pandemic hid from the world for a very long period. Resultantly, the final outcome of this lie for the human race is visible to anyone willing to see.