WUHAN, CHINA (CNN) – In China, the lockdown in Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus, has finally been lifted.
Tens of thousands of people are leaving the city after more than two months of complete lockdown.
Counting down the moment like the start of a new year. Chinese media documenting a dramatic midnight re-opening of Wuhan. Officials rushing to push aside highway barriers. Traffic flowing once again.
For 76 days this city – with a population larger than New York City – was walled off from the rest of mainland China.
Today, the original epicenter of the novel coronavirus no longer on lock down.
A water cannon salute for the first commercial aircraft returning to Wuhan’s airport.
Inside the city train stations an unusual sight, crowds of people. Passengers going through security and screenings. Only those with a clean bill of health allowed to leave.
Railway officials say about 55,000 tickets were sold for outbound travel on Wednesday alone.
Row after row of trains were at the ready.
Just before the January 23rd lockdown took effect, CNN traveled to Wuhan.
We took you to the suspected source of the outbreak, this seafood market.
We met locals who – like us – were unaware of the unprecedented lockdown that loomed.
A few hours after filing our report , we – like so many here – got word of plans to shut down Wuhan.
We then boarded a train back to Beijing to begin our quarantine.
But relied on video chats to keep in touch with those inside the lock down.
Like Iris Yu, stuck in her apartment for more than 2 months.
As of Wednesday morning she was on board a train – fully protected – headed to southern china.
“After 80 straight days in quarantine, I finally came out today,” Yu says. “Now i’m on the train to Shenzhen now.”
As for the Wuhan she’s leaving behind …
“Though it is not yet fully operational, it indeed is recovering,” she says.
Even officials caution this is far from back to normal.
“We receive daily text messages from the government, saying don’t be complacent, Wuhan resident Christopher Suzanne says. “Be cognizant that there may be a second wave.”
A possible second wave.
It’s for that reason that Wuhan residents, like American Christopher Suzanne, are not allowed to roam freely within the city.
Neighborhood committees are monitoring people as they enter and leave their homes and if necessary, enforcing quarantine.
“So I have this special ticket; it’s a red piece of paper,” Suzanne says. “It allows me outside for two hours per day. But only one person, per family, per day – two hours. And you know my wife, she doesn’t go outside. She’s still scared.”
While some stores are back open other businesses will stay closed unable to weather, the economic pressures of the harsh shutdown.
Following subdued lunar new year celebrations in late January … state media marking this moment as a new beginning, of sorts.
But the unknowns linger over a city still haunted by this devastating virus.