Party-goers pack into clubs in Wuhan to celebrate New Year's Eve as Brits stuck at home

Connor Parker
·4 min read
Wuhan, where the pandemic began, has been mostly back to normal for months. (Reuters)
Wuhan, where the pandemic began, has been mostly back to normal for months. (Reuters)

The people of Wuhan in central China are celebrating the new year with parties across the city as the UK remains in effective lockdown.

COVID-19 emerged a year ago in Wuhan and has since spread globally, infecting more than 82 million people and killing more than 1.7 million.

Since then China has aggressively got the virus under control and its citizens have been effectively able to live life normally since the summer.

A light show is projected on buildings by a river on New Year's Eve in Wuhan (Reuters)
A light show is projected on buildings by a river on New Year's Eve in Wuhan (Reuters)

At the height of the pandemic, people in Wuhan were banned from leaving their homes and all travel to and from the city was heavily restricted.

Since then, the virus spread across the world, with only a few nations, mainly in Asia, being able to recreate China’s successful suppression.

Read more: Isles of Scilly drinkers enjoy pints in last of England's pubs to keep doors open

In Wuhan, thousands are expected to gather at several popular landmarks across the city centre for the countdown to 2021.

With nightclubs open and little restrictions on mixing indoors, Wuhan will have a mostly normal new year’s despite the incredibly difficult start it faced at the beginning of 2020.

People gathering to celebrate new years in Wuhan. (Reuters)
People gathering to celebrate new years in Wuhan. (Reuters)
People hold balloons as they gather to celebrate the arrival of the new year in Wuhan (Reuters)
People hold balloons as they gather to celebrate the arrival of the new year in Wuhan (Reuters)

Some said they were being cautious, but weren’t particularly worried.

“Safety is the priority,” said Wuhan resident Wang Xuemei, 23, a teacher.

“It’s fine because these measures aren’t enforced very strictly,” added her friend and colleague Wang Anyu. “You can still go out.”

Read more: 'No logic': Critics attack plans to reopen primary schools while others 'down the road' stay shut

While many revellers were seen wearing masks and some visible guidelines were still in places, it was a marked difference from the situation in the UK.

New Year’s Eve celebrations are all but cancelled in the UK, with more than three-quarters of the country under stay at home orders.

A vendor decorates a balloon for sale by a river on New Year's Eve in Wuhan (Reuters)
A vendor decorates a balloon for sale by a river on New Year's Eve in Wuhan (Reuters)

Pubs, clubs and restaurants are closed in all four nations of the country, with household mixing banned nationwide.

At a time usually dominated by Christmas festivities and new year’s celebrations the nation is instead facing a perilous situation with skyrocketing coronavirus numbers and warnings that January could be an extremely difficult month for the healthcare system and the nation.

A further 964 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the UK total to 73,512.

People wearing masks hold balloons by a river on New Year's Eve in Wuhan. (Reuters)
People wearing masks hold balloons by a river on New Year's Eve in Wuhan. (Reuters)

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 89,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.

A further 55,892 cases of COVID-19 were also confirmed, the third day in a row cases have been above 50,000 and more than double last week.

On Thursday an intensive care specialist pleaded with people to not go out and celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Professor Hugh Montgomery told BBC Radio 5 Live: I’m really sorry that it’s New Year’s Eve. It’s going to be miserable but it has to be, please don’t gather in masses, don’t make this the last swan song, don’t give it a ‘well it’s all going to be lockdown so we’ll have one more night out’ because we can’t have another spread of this.

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Prof Montgomery added: “It takes 10 days for someone who’s infected to hit an intensive care unit, so the bad behaviour that might have happened over Christmas we’re not going to see that until next week, and if people behave badly on New Year, we’re not going to get that hitting us until the 8th or 10th of January.

On Thursday China confirmed 23 new cases of COVID-19.

Busy places in Wuhan were nearly deserted at the start of the pandemic. (Reuters)
Busy places in Wuhan were nearly deserted at the start of the pandemic. (Reuters)

China is also the only major nation that expects its economy to grow this year, at 1.9%, down from 6.1% in 2019.

The UK’s economy has shrunk sharply due to the pandemic and it is expected to take many years before it is back to the position it was.

China recently jailed a citizen journalist who reported the news of the outbreak of the pandemic in Wuhan in spring.

Zhang Zhan, 37, was jailed for four years for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” according to her lawyer.

Zhan was among a handful of people whose firsthand accounts from crowded hospitals and empty streets painted a more dire picture of the pandemic epicentre than the official narrative.

Her imprisonment has sparked international condemnation.

Watch: Chinese citizen journalist jailed for Wuhan virus reporting