The body of a man lying for hours on a sidewalk has become a symbol of the chaos enveloping coronavirus-stricken Wuhan last year.
This is the image that has become a symbol of the chaos enveloping Wuhan, hit by the coronavirus: the body of a man lying for hours on the sidewalk.
The grim scene, captured a year ago by the AFP news agency, was on the corner of a hospital in the Chinese metropolis – now known as the pandemic’s “ground zero”.
But the corpse remained intact until nervous and overwhelmed rescuers took it away.
Although the cause of his death has never been established, the stranger lying on his back has nonetheless become the morbid illustration of a city overwhelmed by the mysterious killer virus.
The neighborhood he took his last breath in looked like a ghost town last year, as terrified residents were ordered to stay at home during the world’s first COVID-19 lockdown.
However, now the people of Wuhan are proud of their city’s resurgence, and most of the residents of the busy street – unrecognizable for 12 months – have no memory of the dead.
It must be “a lie from the foreign media,” said fruit store owner Yuan Shaohua, whose store is a stone’s throw from where the lifeless body lay a year ago.
Yuan was able to keep his grocery store open last January during the lockdown, although most of his neighbors had to shut down.
The 46-year-old remembers those early days of terror when people “dared not leave their homes” and most vehicles were prohibited except emergency vehicles.
On the day of the man’s death, the noise of ambulances carrying the sick filled the otherwise quiet roads.
AFP journalists saw at least 15 ambulances pass near Wuhan Number Six Hospital – one of the main facilities housing COVID-19 patients.
Most passers-by did not stop either.
Despite being close to the hospital, the body lay on the ground for more than two hours before being taken by rescuers in full suits of hazardous materials and protective gear.
State media subsequently reported that the dead man, nicknamed Xie, was not a victim of the novel coronavirus, although they gave no further details.
The hospital and local authorities did not respond to repeated requests for information.
Since then, new stores have opened and life has evolved.
Huang Shunxing set up a lottery shop across the street, almost exactly where the dead man was seen.
His furniture store on the same site was closed at the time. But Huang opened his renovated store last summer as businesses in Wuhan reappeared after months of lockdown.
Standing behind a display of scratch cards, she said she was “delighted” that the city had recovered.
“Business is going well,” she beamed.
One of his clients, Wang, 58, told AFP that the city has been unrecognizable since that dark period.
“Last year we were all locked up at home,” he said, along with his wife and their 24-year-old son.
But now, he said, “Wuhan is actually the safest place.”