Monday marked the three-year anniversary of when the Chinese city of Wuhan was placed under a lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19 in early 2020, weeks before other nations throughout the world would start to impose their own measures.
Wuhan is the largest city and capital of the Hubei province in central China. It is located about 500 miles west of Shanghai and has an estimated population of about 10,037,986 as of 2023, according to the World Population Review.
Though major Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing may have outpaced the city in terms of name recognition throughout the world years ago, Wuhan gained international attention on January 23, 2020, when it was placed under a 76-day lockdown to curb a COVID-19 outbreak.
This was the most extreme measure against the virus that had been taken at that point, the Associated Press reported.
Photos of Wuhan at the time showed a reality likely unfamiliar to many in the world up until that point: medical staff covered head to toe in hazmat suits and other protective gear, face mask-wearing civilians queuing to have their temperatures checked, crowds of people waiting for medical treatment in hospitals and the sick laid out on stretchers.
Pictures of the city in the present day, three years after the fact, seem to show at least a slight return to normalcy for residents who began to experience life in a pandemic before much of the rest of the world.
In the combination above, the same Wuhan hospital is pictured on January 25, 2020, above and then again on January 22, 2023, below. The difference between the same place three years apart is stark. The top photo from 2020 shows medical staff in protective clothing at an entrance in the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital with a crowd of civilians, some in masks, visible behind them. The same view from 2023 shows a nearly empty room.
Meanwhile, the city’s lockdown measures forced people into their homes and off of the streets. The combination pictures above and below both show Wuhan streets in late January 2020 compared to January 2023. In both combinations, the top pictures show nearly barren streets in 2020, while the bottom pictures show traffic-filled streets in 2023.
Stark differences can be seen in Wuhan’s public transportation in current photos compared to photos from 2020 during the lockdown. In the combination below, a train going from Shanghai to Wuhan is shown nearly completely free of travelers in the top picture from 2020, while most seats appear to be taken in another train going from Shanghai to Wuhan in the bottom picture from 2023.
And some photos illustrate that certain parts of Wuhan can never be the same as they were before the lockdown in 2020. Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which was linked to dozens of early COVID-19 cases, was closed in late December 2019, the AP reported. Two separate studies published last year pinpointed the market as the most likely epicenter for COVID-19, CNN reported.
In the top picture of the combination below, a police officer can be seen guarding the market in January 2020. Where the permanently closed market once stood can be seen in the bottom photo from January this year.
While the combination photos indicate that the situation in Wuhan has improved, it has yet to fully rid itself of COVID-19. Following the initial lockdown in 2020, a Wuhan suburb of almost 1 million people was placed on lockdown in July 2022 for several days after four asymptomatic cases were detected, the BBC reported.
Additionally, Wuhan has not been immune from a recent wave of cases across China that followed the easing of its stringent “zero-COVID” measures in December 2022, according to NBC News.