February 1, 2023

On Saturday, Wuhan residents celebrated China’s “Year of the Rabbit” with firecrackers and chrysanthemum flowers, three years after the city imposed lockdown measures as a result of Covid-19, and paid tribute to loved ones who died from the virus.

New Year’s celebrations are of particular importance this year: Since the lifting of health restrictions in December, China has seen a spike in coronavirus infections, with at least 60,000 virus-related deaths reported, according to official figures. It is likely that this outcome does not reflect the true death toll in a country of 1.4 billion people, with many hospitals and crematoria crammed with corpses.

“Friends and family members died this year,” Zhang, 54, told AFP. He explained, carrying a bouquet of chrysanthemums he had bought at the city’s main flower market, that “we have a custom of visiting the families of the dead after midnight on New Year’s Eve, carrying incense and flowers.”

The city, located on the banks of the Yangtze River, is home to 11 million people, and at the end of 2019, the first cases of the epidemic in the world were reported in it. Strict isolation measures were introduced for him on January 23, 2020, two days before the start of the year of the Rat, and it lasted 76 days, so it was forbidden to celebrate the New Year.

Traditionally, on Sunday at midnight (Saturday 16:00 GMT), Wuhan residents flocked to donate chrysanthemums to families who have lost loved ones over the past year.

Many residents confirmed to Agence France-Presse that Covid was the cause of death.

Despite the late hour, peddlers stood on the sidewalks offering chrysanthemums, and residents burned banknotes in memory of their dead.

“Celebrate with dignity”

At the same time, firecrackers and fireworks were set off to celebrate the New Year, despite the ban in place.

Jianghan’s main shopping street is decorated with colorful lights and banners, and the banner reads “I love Wuhan” with a heart.

“Of course, the situation will improve once the measures are lifted,” Zhu, who lives in Wuhan, told AFP, without giving her full name. Since everyone has been infected with Covid, we can celebrate the New Year with dignity.

On Saturday morning, merchants smiled at Wuhan’s largest flower market.

Liu, who has run the flower shop for 20 years, said in her three years in prison, “sales hasn’t been very good, but it’s improving” since the measures were lifted last month.

“More and more people are buying flowers,” said Tao, another saleswoman who chose not to give her full name.

“Because a lot of people have died from Covid in recent years, chrysanthemums are very popular,” she added.

And she confirmed that her clientele is “greater than last year,” to the point where she has to work overtime on New Year’s Eve.

She recalls saying that in 2020, “the year the lockdown measures were in place, we didn’t sell flowers, so we threw away all the flowers.”

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