Wuhan, China went from being ground zero for the novel coronavirus pandemic to beating it with strict social distancing
In late 2019, the novel coronavirus that has now completely changed the world first emerged in Wuhan, China. As the disease raised alarm bells among doctors and scientists and began its deadly spread around the world, Wuhan and its surrounding province were locked down and placed under some of the strictest quarantine measures seen anywhere around the globe. And it worked. Now, in a post-coronavirus city, thousands are able to gather without any social distancing measures whatsoever, and that’s what they did in Wuhan, where a giant pool party marked several months without any community transmission of COVID-19.
Thousands gathered at the HOHA Water Electrical Musical Festival over the weekend and images from the event quickly circulated on social media.
To those of us in other parts of the world (and especially in the U.S., where we have absolutely, utterly failed to do anything to control the spread of the virus), photos and videos from the party are probably a little alarming. Thousands and thousands of people are packed together in a pool. There are no masks. There’s no social distancing. People don’t seem like they’re afraid. It’s such a stark difference from what we’re experiencing in places where outbreaks are still raging out of control.
In Wuhan, though, life has gradually gone back to normal during the summer months. The city lifted an extremely stringent, 76-day lockdown in early April. There was some back-and-forth, with lockdown measures being reinstated at times to respond to clusters of cases. But now, Wuhan hasn’t seen a case of community transmission of COVID-19 since May. It’s an example to the world that shows that the virus can be controlled — and exactly how to do it.
For example, when six new cases were discovered in a residential community in Wuhan in mid-May, the city rolled out an astoundingly ambitious contact tracing program. They tested more than 6.5 million people in just nine days. That’s a stark contrast to places like the United States where, eight months after the disease was first discovered, we still struggle with shortages of testing supplies and laboratory capacity.
However, Sanjaya Senanayake, associate professor in infectious diseases at the Australian National University, cautions that although most of Wuhan’s residents have been tested, there’s still risk of transmission if the virus is introduced from somewhere else. “The problem is we haven’t eradicated Covid-19, and what that means is that as long as its not eradicated, there’s still the risk of having it introduced, whether from overseas or elsewhere,” he tells the BBC.
Senanayake points to New Zealand’s 3-month streak of no COVID cases before a new spike was reported last week. “A study from London came out suggesting that about 10-20% of people with Covid-19 are responsible for about 80% of cases,” he said. “So if you’re putting large groups of people together you really have to be careful. Even if one person has the virus, you’re in for some rough times.”
In the U.S., the coronavirus death toll is fast approaching 200,000. 200,000 American lives lost, and other parts of the world are proving that it didn’t need to be this way. It’s serving as a sad reminder of our country’s utter failure to respond to a crisis that has proven to be life-and-death for all of us.