Wuhan's streets remain quiet after curbs drop

STORY: It was quiet in this renowned local night market in Wuhan on Thursday evening (December 8).

A day before, China's government had announced the most sweeping changes to its resolute anti-COVID regime.

But in the city where the pandemic erupted in late 2019, vendors said business had declined since Wednesday's loosening of rules - despite the market having been open for weeks.

Prompting concerns that anxieties about the coronavirus are likely to hamper a speedy return to health for the world's second-largest economy.

Locals, like Ms Chen, are afraid of growing infections.

"Now with everything opening up, all these people are out, so the infection rate is high. I have a lot of friends who already have a cold or feverish symptoms. There are a lot, and I’m one of them too.”

A video circulated on Friday (December 9) showed dozens queueing outside a fever clinic.

A bystander is overheard exclaiming "This is what happens when you open up!"

COVID-19 cases are already on the rise in cities across China. Wuhan has reported hundreds for the past few days.

In Beijing, city streets were also quiet.

Some businesses are reluctant to drop COVID curbs and several empty seats were seen on the subway at rush hour.

The only busy spots in town are pharmacies, where people are queuing to buy preventative medicine.

China last month saw protests against COVID curbs in many cities that marked the biggest show of public discontent since President Xi Jinping came to power a decade ago.

It was widely seen as a tipping point to an easing of tight COVID restrictions.

Some of those protesters, tracked down by China's security apparatus, now face an anxious wait about their fate.

Little more than a month after the National Health Commission stressed commitment to its strict virus containment policy, saying it was "putting people and lives first," authorities have changed track and are now telling people they have less to fear.

In comments reported by the state-owned People's Daily, Zhong Nanshan, a prominent Chinese epidemiologist, said 99% of people now infected with the virus would recover in 7-10 days.

But there are signs the reassuring message has still to convince many of the country's 1.4 billion people.