The city of Wuhan will end the world's harshest coronavirus lockdown after 11 weeks. The world is petrified that the virus will come back.

Man in Wuhan China, Getty Images, February 18, during quarantine

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A man wearing a protective face mask riding a scooter in Wuhan, China, on February 17, 2020.

  • Wuhan - the origin of the coronavirus outbreak - will end its uncompromising lockdown on April 8, allowing traffic to reenter and pass through the city.
  • Eleven million people confined to their homes since January 23 aren't allowed to leave their homes, and are being delivered food as armed police patrol the streets.
  • Wuhan's lockdown has been more severe than anywhere else, meaning the world is watching closely to see how effective it's been in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
  • In recent weeks, Italy, Spain, Britain, and several US states have enforced lockdowns and curfews of their own as Europe and the Americas enter their worst periods fighting the virus yet.
  • Some experts fear that when lockdowns end, a "boomerang effect" will occur, bringing a resurgence of viruses due to unidentified and symptomless infections, as well as new imported cases.
  • Meanwhile, some experts and local Wuhan residents doubt that the city is as clear of the virus as the government says.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The city of Wuhan, China, will end its all-encompassing lockdown on April 8, with the world anxiously watching to see what comes next.

In a Tuesday post on social media site Weibo, Hubei province - where Wuhan is located - said restrictions in, out, and within the city will end, meaning people will be able to pass through Wuhan and the wider province.Advertisement

It will mark the end of a 76-day, intense lockdown, which started on January 23 as the coronavirus raged out of control through the city and the province.

Wuhan, where the coronavirus broke out last December, has been hard hit by the virus. The scale of its lockdown has been unprecedented both in terms of measures and timescale, and far surpasses the rules currently being set in countries like Italy, France, Britain, and parts of the US.

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Wuhan on lockdown 13

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A vendor delivers meat to a customer in Wuhan on February 27, 2020.

Here's a rundown of what's been happening in Wuhan:

  • Eleven million residents all confined to their homes, with the exception of delivery and hospital workers.
  • One person from each household only allowed to leave the building every 72 hours to buy food and medical supplies.
  • Food and medicine delivered to their doors to avoid transmission of the virus.
  • Entrances to housing estates guarded so only residents enter and leave.
  • Armed police patrolling the streets to make sure people don't breach the restrictions without proper cause.
  • Police enforcing traffic blocks by controlling who enters the city and who doesn't.
But as the official death and infection toll in Wuhan, Hubei province, and the rest of China continues to decrease, so too have the number of restrictions in Wuhan.On Monday, ahead of the April 8 reopening, a number of public-transport services and supermarkets reopened to the public, according to state news outlet CGTN, and over the weekend a train carrying 1,000 workers pulled into the city's main station. Advertisement

Some experts now fear that the lifting of restrictions will bring back the virus in a phenomenon known as the "boomerang effect."

Fears of a 'boomerang effect'

Dr. Ben Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong who researches influenza transmission and control measures, told Business Insider there are two ways the virus can make a resurgence as residents emerge from their homes, return to work, take their children to school, and go shopping.

  • First, a small number of residents who were under lockdown could still have the virus when restrictions lift, but not know they're sick. Those people could then spread it, starting a new wave of infections.
  • Second, international travelers could bring the virus back into the country.
"What happened in Wuhan could happen repeatedly to a city," Cowling told Business Insider.Advertisement

"They can shut down for a month, but then when they reopen, they're still going to have an epidemic starting again, and I don't see the long-term plan for those locations."

"Are they going to just cycle? Just down one month in every three months?" Cowling said.

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wuhan empty train station

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A passenger arriving at the nearly-deserted train station, which is usually full of passengers ahead of the Lunar New Year, in Wuhan on January 23, 2020.

Current reports from authorities in Wuhan, however, suggests that the lockdown has worked as intended: to slow the spread of the virus.

In early February, Wuhan had been reporting dozens of new coronavirus cases every day. On March 19, it reported no new cases in a 24-hour period - the first time since the outbreak began in early December, according to the World Health Organization.

Another sign that Wuhan's worst days were behind it came on March 10, when Chinese premier Xi Jinping visited, after a near three month absence from the front lines of the fight against the virus.Advertisement

As Wuhan lifts restrictions, some officials and locals doubt it's really clear of the virus

Some local officials have doubted the official figures, however.

The Caixin news outlet on Monday cited an unidentified official at Wuhan's infectious-diseases prevention and control team as saying that the city is still recording "several or more than a dozen asymptomatic infected individuals," which are people who do not feel ill but have tested positive for the coronavirus.China reported 78 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, but said they were imported from Europe, according to Reuters. Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea are also experiencing the same trend.Advertisement

hubei wuhan medical workers staff protective masks coronavirus covid 19 march 17 2020 GettyImages 1207502928

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Medical staff of China's national emergency medical team at the Tianhe airport in Wuhan on March 17, 2020.

Residents of Wuhan are still fearful, despite the ease in constraints.

"Everyone is being very careful," resident Iris Yao, 40, told The Guardian.Advertisement

"I am really worried that there are still many asymptomatic infected people inside Wuhan. As soon as everyone goes back to work, everyone will be infected," a person identified by The Guardian as Wang, 26, also told the paper.

Some experts also believe that the authorities could be lying about the new number of deaths.

"With the cover-up in December and January we really cannot trust the numbers from the Chinese government without more credible and solid evidence to verify," Ho-fung Hung, a professor in political economy at Johns Hopkins University, told The Guardian.Advertisement

Italian soldiers patrol downtown Milan, Italy, Sunday, March 22, 2020. Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte has told the nation he is tightening the lockdown to fight the rampaging spread of coronavirus, shuttind down all production facilities except those that are

Associated Press

Italian soldiers patrol downtown Milan amid the country's lockdown on March 22, 2020.

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the government has silenced a large number of critics, including journalists and the whistleblowing doctor Li Wenliang.

Viral hashtags and posts criticizing the government's response have been censored on social media. A new law introduced in early March effectively criminalized the posting of content critical of the regime on the internet. Advertisement

Even before the outbreak, China's government and tech companies have long been known to distort data and enforce strict censorship on what its citizens can see.

"I don't believe [the numbers]. This epidemic will not disappear so easily," one resident of Wuhan told The Guardian.Advertisement

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