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As Wuhan reopens, the need to stop a second wave of infections takes precedence over the need to restart the economy

The Washington Post reports:

After 10 weeks confined to their apartments, unable to exercise, shop for groceries or walk their dogs, Wuhan residents are emerging into the daylight.

The subway and intercity trains are running again. Shopping malls and even the Tesla store are reopening. State-owned companies and manufacturing businesses are turning on their lights, with others to follow.

“I’ve been indoors for 70 days. Today is the first time that I came outside,” one woman who ventured into a mall this week told local television. “I feel as if I have been separated from the outside world for ages.”

Wuhan’s airport is due to reopen next week, and residents will be allowed to leave the city for the first time since it was locked down Jan. 23 to control the deadly coronavirus that originated there.

China’s leaders say the country has largely won the battle against its outbreak, reporting each day that domestic transmissions are negligible or nonexistent. The gradual reopening of parts of Hubei province — and now of Wuhan, the provincial capital — is testament to that.

But winning the war is proving to be a tougher proposition. That involves not only preventing a second wave of coronavirus infections but also restarting the economy. It’s becoming increasingly clear that officials cannot achieve both things at once.

“These obviously come into conflict, because to prevent the spread of the virus, both from overseas and from unrecorded cases, China needs to maintain some kind of social distancing measures,” said Neil Thomas, a senior researcher at the China-focused Macro Polo think tank in Chicago. “These are going to dampen demand from consumers and limit the operation of factories, the service industry and the transportation networks.”

Chinese authorities are discovering that allowing people — even those without fevers who are wearing surgical masks and are doused in hand sanitizer — to get too close to each other risks a new rise in infections. Recent media reports have focused on “silent carriers,” and studies have found that as many as one-third of people infected with the coronavirus show delayed or no symptoms. [Continue reading…]

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