In pictures: Chinese city of Wuhan one year on from coronavirus outbreak

Emily Cleary
·3-min read
Wuhan wet market lies abandoned a year on from the coronavirus outbreak in the city (reuters)
The site of the Wuhan wet market is deserted a year on from the coronavirus outbreak in the city (reuters)

Almost a year since the coronavirus outbreak began, COVID-19 has claimed more than 1.5 million lives.

These pictures show the Wuhan wet market - where it was initially detected - standing abandoned and empty while the rest of the city comes back to life.

With no recorded cases of COVID-19 transmissions since May, Wuhan is gradually returning to normal.

However, the market has become a symbol of the fierce political and scientific battle raging around the origin of the virus, with Beijing continuing to spar with the United States and other countries, accusing them of bias.

On Friday the World Health Organization (WHO) announced its plan to investigate the origins of the COVID pandemic.

Wuhan wet market lies abandoned a year on from the coronavirus outbreak in the city (reuters)
A satellite view of the barricaded Wuhan wet market, thought to be the origin of the coronavirus outbreak (Reuters)

It said the search will start in Wuhan and expand across China and beyond. Tracing the virus’s path is important for preventing future viral spillovers, but scientists say the WHO team faces a daunting task.

Most researchers think the virus originated in bats, but how it jumped to humans is officially unestablished.

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York City, said: “Finding an animal with a SARS-CoV-2 infection is like looking for a needle in the world’s largest haystack.

“They may never find a ‘smoking bat’” or other animal.

Wuhan wet market lies abandoned a year on from the coronavirus outbreak in the city (reuters)
The floor above Wuhan's wet market lies empty a year on from the coronavirus outbreak (reuters)

“It will be key for the investigators to establish a collaborative relationship with scientists and government officials in China.”

WUHAN, CHINA - DECEMBER 10:  (CHINA OUT) A general view of a night market on December 10, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Wuhan, with no recorded cases of Covid-19 transmissions since May, is gradually returning to normal.  (Photo by Getty Images)
Wuhan residents and business owners have told reporters they don't believe their city was the origin of the outbreak (Getty Images)

In Wuhan, where the stigma of being the first coronavirus epicentre hangs heavy, residents and business owners have said they don't believe the virus began in the city.

"It certainly couldn't have been Wuhan... surely another person brought it in. Or surely it came from some other product brought from outside. There were just certain conditions for it to appear here," a wet market vendor in the city's centre who gave his name as Chen told Reuters news agency.

WUHAN, CHINA - DECEMBER 10:  (CHINA OUT)Residents bargain for vendor at a night market on December 10, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Wuhan, with no recorded cases of Covid-19 transmissions since May, is gradually returning to normal.  (Photo by Getty Images)
A night market in Wuhan on Thursday. With no recorded cases of COVID-19 transmissions since May, the city is gradually returning to normal (Getty Images)

Recently, the local government has added leafy green plants and traditional Chinese paintings to the semi-permanent blue barricades encircling the area. Inside, wooden boards line the stalls and windows.

On the second floor above the empty market, shops selling glasses and optometry equipment reopened in June.

This week, a guard at the entrance to the eyeware market took temperatures and warned journalists not to take videos or photos from inside the building.

"Maybe some people have some bad feelings about it, but now it's just an empty building ... who feels anxious about an empty building?" said a shop assistant selling contact lenses, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject.

WUHAN, CHINA - DECEMBER 11: (CHINA OUT)Residents wear the mask during a new Wanda Plaza opening ceremony on December 11, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei Province,China. Wuhan With no recorded cases of community transmissions since May, life for residents is gradually returning to normal.(Photo by Getty Images)
Residents of Wuhan wear face coverings on their way to a new Wanda Plaza opening ceremony on Friday (Getty Images)
WUHAN, CHINA - DECEMBER 11: (CHINA OUT)Residents wearing masks during a new Wanda Plaza opening ceremony on December 11, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei Province,China. Wuhan With no recorded cases of community transmissions since May, life for residents is gradually returning to normal.(Photo by Getty Images)
The Wanda Plaza opening ceremony on in Wuhan, Hubei Province,China, on Friday (Getty Images)

While Wuhan hasn't reported any new locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 since May, for some who relied on the market making ends meet is still a struggle.

Lai, who reopened his Japanese restaurant in June, says the market's closure and subsequent public panic about the safety of imported seafood has increased the cost of procuring some ingredients five-fold.

"Our goal for the next year is to just survive."

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