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How is the Wuhan market today, the “ground zero” where COVID-19 emerged

The streets around the Wuhan Market in China changed their appearance forever (REUTERS / Aly Song / File Photo)
The streets around the Wuhan Market in China changed their appearance forever (REUTERS / Aly Song / File Photo)

He mercado de Huanan, where the COVID-19 pandemic disease is believed to have started to spread, is still sealed, disinfected and jealously guarded by security guards, but with establishments open on its second floor in which, a year later, the shop assistants try to rebuild their lives. The scene looks like something out of an apocalyptic science fiction movie.

The two warehouses that made up the market, separated by New China Street in Wuhan, in the heart of the Asian giant, they have been closed for months to the outside with blue barriers that have now been adorned with pictures of traditional Chinese painting.

Only the optics remain open (REUTERS / Stringer / File Photo / File Photo)
Only the optics remain open (REUTERS / Stringer / File Photo / File Photo)

Shortly after the first cases of the so-called “mysterious outbreak of pneumonia”, the market closed its doors on January 1, 2020, after detecting the spread of infections in sellers and customers.

Just a day earlier, the Chinese government had informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of the detection in Wuhan of the first cases of COVID. By then, the coronavirus was already spreading rapidly.

The opticians on the second floor of the market, the only ones that remained open since they sell protective glasses (REUTERS / Aly Song)
The opticians on the second floor of the market, the only ones that remained open since they sell protective glasses (REUTERS / Aly Song)

Opticians, the only open businesses

Researchers dressed in white protective overalls, glasses, gloves and masks were, for months, the only ones allowed to enter the site to disinfect it and collect samples.

Today in Huanan there is no trace of them or of the merchants or customers who came downstairs to visit the “wet market”, Where in China it is common to find outdoors from fruits and vegetables to fresh meat, seafood, herbs and spices.

Only the establishments of its second plant remain active, which reopened last June. It is a wide gallery that houses a hundred opticians.

Potential customers lose themselves in front of a street food stall in Wuhan, China (REUTERS / Aly Song)
Potential customers lose themselves in front of a street food stall in Wuhan, China (REUTERS / Aly Song)

One of the employees, who does not want to give his name due to the “sensitivity” of the matter, briefly recall that when the market closed, the upstairs shops were still open.

“We asked ourselves too many questions. Some were trying to see what was going on downstairs, but everything was already too restricted, ”he explains.

A few days later, On January 11, they received a notification ordering the closure of the rest of the stores while the number of infected and hospitalized increased.

Researchers dressed in white protective overalls, glasses, gloves and masks were, for months, the only ones authorized to enter the site (REUTERS)
Researchers dressed in white protective overalls, glasses, gloves and masks were, for months, the only ones authorized to enter the site (REUTERS)

That same day it was announced the first death in Wuhan, a 61-year-old man who had been precisely in the Huanan market.

Now, the clerk’s priority is to rebuild his life and save his business, although there are hardly any clients who dare to visit the gallery.

He also believes that, even if the outbreak spread through the market, the origin of the virus could be elsewhere: “Nothing is known … why is it taken for granted? The virus could have been circulating before, right?”He asks, before the security guards abruptly interrupt the conversation.

Aerial view of Huanan Market in Wuhan, China (REUTERS / Thomas Peter / File Photo)
Aerial view of Huanan Market in Wuhan, China (REUTERS / Thomas Peter / File Photo)

WHO is investigating

A team of WHO experts landed in Wuhan on January 14 to begin a long-delayed mission, which aims to investigate the origins of the coronavirus..

The Chinese state broadcaster CGTN It showed the arrival of the plane from Singapore that was transporting the team of experts for an investigation that is expected to last several weeks.

This visit is extremely sensitive for Beijing, concerned to rule out any responsibility in the pandemic that has caused nearly two million deaths in the world. Postponed several times, it was canceled at the last minute due to missing all necessary authorizations. Experts keep a two-week quarantine.

A woman wearing a mask walks past a quarantine notice posted over the Chinese city of Wuhan for a new virus during January 2020 (REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon)
A woman wearing a mask walks past a quarantine notice posted over the Chinese city of Wuhan for a new virus during January 2020 (REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Expectations should be “very low” said some members of the World Health Organization team of experts tasked with investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I would be inclined to set very low expectations to draw a conclusion on this visit“Said Dr. Dale Fisher, president of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network coordinated by WHO, in an interview Monday at the Reuters Next conference.

Local snacks in the street market, one year after the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Wuhan, China's Hubei province (REUTERS / Aly Song)
Local snacks in the street market, one year after the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Wuhan, China’s Hubei province (REUTERS / Aly Song)

“I think it is an important meeting, but this time it should not be overrated in terms of results,” said Fisher, who participated in a WHO mission to Wuhan last year.

The National Health Commission, which had to delay its trip that had been originally scheduled for the first days of January, did not detail the team’s itinerary. In addition, the researchers serve a quarantine upon arrival in Chinese territory.

“We look forward to working closely with our (Chinese) peers on this critical mission to identify the source of the virus and its route of introduction to the human population,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on Twitter.

The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, attending a session on the response to the coronavirus outbreak at the WHO Executive Board in Geneva, Switzerland.  October 5, 2020. Christopher Black / WHO / Handout via REUTERS
The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, attending a session on the response to the coronavirus outbreak at the WHO Executive Board in Geneva, Switzerland. October 5, 2020. Christopher Black / WHO / Handout via REUTERS

Delayed experts

Two of the experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) team are blocked in Singapore to undergo different COVID-19 tests again.

“The international team of 13 scientists tasked with examining the origins of the virus arrived in Wuhan, China, today (…) Two scientists are still in Singapore to be tested” for coronavirus, the WHO said in a message on Twitter.

The Organization explained that “all team members were subjected to various tests and antibody tests in their countries of origin.”

Several people with face masks at a street market in Wuhan, China (REUTERS / Aly Song)
Several people with face masks at a street market in Wuhan, China (REUTERS / Aly Song)

Two of them were positive for IgM antibodies (immunoglobulins M), a form of antibody that the body makes in reaction to the virus. Therefore, they must be subjected to a test again to confirm these antibodies and another class, called IgG (immunoglobulins G).

The WHO team is made up of scientists of different nationalities. Images relayed by state broadcaster CGTN showed the team members arriving at Wuhan airport and their reception by sheathed personnel in white protective suits. It remains to know the results of the report they are making at this time.

With information from EFE

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About the author

Kim Diaz

Kim recently joined the team, and she writes for the Headline column of the website. She has done major in English, and a having a diploma in Journalism.

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