May 17, 2020 / 3:43 AM / 2 months ago

Dancers bring Saturday night fever back to Wuhan as lockdown relaxed

WUHAN, China (Reuters) - Wearing masks and keeping about a metre apart, men and women in Wuhan were dancing once again on a Saturday night by the side of the Yangtze river, which winds through the central Chinese city where the novel coronavirus pandemic began.

Wuhan’s 76-day lockdown ended on April 8, and the city is slowly getting back on its feet, hopeful that the worst is passed, but worried by the emergence last week of a few fresh cases on the virus.

While most large indoor gatherings are still banned, people are reclaiming their daily lives and hobbies, which in many parts of China includes “square dancing”, or mass dances, usually in the evenings in public squares, plazas or parks.

On Saturday night, over a hundred masked people danced on an open-air riverside walkway in central Wuhan as loudspeakers blared out everything from electronic dance music to Japanese pop.

Some waltzed in pairs. Others moved in sync to choreographed dance routines. All wore masks, and mostly kept apart.

“It’s quite hard to breathe when wearing this mask to dance and you can’t get rid of the perspiration, but my mood is great, we can finally gather,” said Zhang Jing, 42, adding that she had rejoined her dancing group at the start of May.

Still, worries about the virus linger.

“I do still feel a little constrained, (dancing) doesn’t feel as free with a mask, and I am a little afraid that there could be cross infection,” said Fang Yuanyuan, 50.

Slideshow (7 Images)

COVID-19 first struck Wuhan late last year, and it became the epicentre of China’s outbreak, accounting for about 80% of the country’s coronavirus cases, but the strict lockdown helped stifle new infections, allowing curbs on movement to be relaxed.

Last week, however, the city reported its first cluster of new infections since the lockdown was lifted, stoking fears of a second wave, and prompting authorities to launch a campaign to test all 11 million residents for the coronavirus.

Mainland China reported five new confirmed COVID-19 cases for May 16, down from eight the previous day, the National Health Commission (NHC) said in a statement on Sunday.

Reporting by Xihao Jiang and Brenda Goh; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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