China ended its 11-week coronavirus lockdown of Wuhan on Wednesday, and about 65,000 people quickly boarded trains and planes out of the city of 11 million, with thousands more fleeing by car, The Associated Press reports, citing local media. Beijing imposed hard restrictions on the city in the middle of the night on Jan. 23, with no warning, confining residents to their homes except to buy food or a limited number of other essential activities.
Wuhan is the epicenter of the global COVID-19 pandemic, accounting for most of China's 82,000 official coronavirus cases and 3,300 deaths. China reported no coronavirus cases on Wednesday. "While there are questions about the veracity of China's count, the unprecedented lockdown of Wuhan and Hubei have been successful enough that other countries adopted similar measures," AP notes. "With the restrictions ending, Hubei's provincial capital begins another experiment: resuming business and ordinary life while preventing more illnesses."
Wuhan residents aren't free to roam around the country. They still have to wear masks, undergo temperature checks, and submit to tests and 14-day quarantines if they leave Wuhan for another part of China. And in order to leave, they have to present a mandatory smartphone app that uses a combination of surveillance data to rate their health status. China is also seeking to revive small and medium-sized businesses in the industrial city with about $2.8 billion in preferential loans. Many of Wuhan's large factories are already up and running.
Still, there were public and private celebrations of the end of lockdown. "I haven't been outside for more than 70 days," a resident named Tong Zhengkun told AP. "Being indoors for so long drove me crazy." Peter Weber
U.S. officials and "mid-level, senior-level Taliban leaders" are engaging in "intensified dialogue" in Kabul about ending the war in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, told reporters via teleconference Wednesday.
"A number of channels of dialogue have opened up between the various stakeholders in the peace process," Nicholson said. "Now, what's been encouraging, is that concurrent with this intensified dialogue, we saw the levels of violence drop to lower levels ... I call this talking and fighting," he continued. "And, as [Defense Secretary James Mattis] has said, 'Violence and progress can coexist,' and that's what we're seeing."
Nicholson did not reveal the identities of the negotiators, only that they are "stakeholders" who are "engaged to varying degrees of dialogue with either those who work with the Taliban or actually some of the Taliban leaders themselves." Bonnie Kristian