Photos show how China’s novel coronavirus outbreak unfolded as Wuhan’s 76-day lockdown ends

Volunteers from the Blue Sky Rescue team disinfect at the Qintai Grand Theatre in Wuhan,

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Volunteers from the Blue Sky Rescue team disinfect at the Qintai Grand Theatre in Wuhan,
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Aly Song/ REUTERS
  • The novel coronavirus that originated in December in Wuhan, China, has since infected at least 1.4 million people and killed 81,000 worldwide, as of Tuesday.
  • The pandemic has spread to 183 other countries, prompting nations worldwide to implement sweeping lockdowns and travel restrictions.
  • On April 8, Wuhan officially lifted its 76-day lockdown.
  • Though Wuhan was once the epicenter of the virus, the toll has now shifted to the US and Europe. These photos show how the outbreak unfolded in China.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

An initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, grew into the coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 1.4 million people and killed at least 81,000 worldwide.

From the beginning, Chinese healthcare workers scrambled to contain the virus and treat an influx of new patients while battling a lack of medical tests, a shortage of room in hospitals, and mixed messaging from the government.

To quell the outbreak, Chinese authorities ordered sweeping lockdowns throughout the country, cut-off travel for tens of millions of people, panic-built new hospitals, and initiated surveillance measures to track people with the virus.

In just four months, the virus has spread from to 184 other countries, resulting in nationwide lockdowns across the globe.

Just after midnight on April 8, Wuhan lifted its coronavirus restrictions following a 76-day lockdown that turned the city of 11 million into a ghost town.

These photos show the trajectory of the outbreak in China.


The first case of the coronavirus was reported in Wuhan in December, and is thought to have originated at the Huanan Seafood Market, a wet market that sold live animals next to seafood and meat.

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A woman walks in front of the closed Huanan wholesale seafood market.
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NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


By late December, dozens of cases began emerging, but scientists knew only that the sickness involved viral pneumonia, and that patients were not responding to normal treatments.

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A police officer wearing a mask stands in front of the seafood market in Wuhan, China
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Stringer CHINA OUT/REUTERS

Source: The New York Times


Chinese officials did not alert the public at this point. On December 31, they released a statement to the World Health Organization and said the virus was “preventable and controllable.”

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Medical staff carry a box as they walk at the Jinyintan hospital, where the patients with pneumonia caused by the new strain of coronavirus are being treated, in Wuhan
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Stringer CHINA OUT/REUTERS

Source: The New York Times


The Huanan Seafood Market was closed on January 1.

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Poultry vendor selling live chicken at wet market in Kowloon City.
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Felix Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Chinese authorities began an official investigation into the disease in early January, after fear began spreading that this could be like SARS, another coronavirus that originated in China and killed 774 people in the early 2000s.

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Vietnam’s Vice Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son talks with a man at an isolated section of a hospital where two Chinese citizens had tested positive for coronavirus, in Ho Chi Minh city
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Reuters

Source: Business Insider


On January 7, Chinese authorities identified the illness to be a new type of coronavirus (called a novel coronavirus or nCoV).

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A microscopic image of the coronavirus.
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BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Four days later, on January 11, China recorded its first coronavirus death, a 61-year old man in Wuhan.

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People attend an official mourning service for the victims and martyrs in the COVID-19 plague during a national mourning moment in Wuhan
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Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Source: The New York Times


On January 22, Chinese Health Officials held a press conference in Beijing to discuss what they knew about the outbreak. People were demanding answers.

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Chinese health officials hold a press conference in Beijing on Jan. 22, 2020,
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Kyodo News/Getty Images

At this time, it was acknowledged that the virus could spread form human-to-human contact. During the early stages of the outbreak, people began wearing masks to protect themselves — even though, for the average person, wearing a mask is not as effective as hand-washing and avoiding infected people.

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A woman wears a mask while riding an electric bicycle near the closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.
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Getty Images

Source: Business Insider, New York Times


China began to impose screening precautions in Wuhan and began checking people for the virus at transportation hubs.

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Citizens wear masks to defend against new viruses on January 22, 2020 in Guangzhou, China.
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Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Passengers traveling to other parts of Asia from Wuhan were targeted for screening at airports.

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Passengers who flew from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of a pneumonia-causing new coronavirus, go through quarantine at Narita airport near Tokyo on Jan. 23, 2020.
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Kyodo News via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Medics wearing Hazmat suits were seen scanning passengers arriving from Wuhan in Beijing on January 22.

Source: Business Insider


As the death toll climbed to nine, the Chinese government urged people to avoid traveling to Wuhan and to stay away from public spaces — a warning that came just as millions of people were planning to migrate for the Lunar New Year.

Source: Business Insider


But according to the New York Times, an estimated 7 million people — thousands of them infected with the virus — traveled from Wuhan throughout the month of January.

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Passengers waiting to board trains at Shanghai’s Hongqiao Railway Station ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year in February 2018.

Source: The New York Times


On January 23, the death toll grew to 17 and the city of Wuhan was put on official lockdown. All transportation was stopped and wearing a protective mask became mandatory.

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A row of Chinese soldiers block the entrance to the central Hankou Station in Wuhan, China, after the government put the city in lockdown.
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The Paper/Twitter

Source: Business Insider


People in Wuhan stockpiled food and fuel.

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Wuhan residents wearing masks but groceries on January 23.
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Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Streets in Wuhan were deserted.

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A major road going through the streets of the city remains deserted as people stay at home and avoid transport due to the virus outbreak in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province on January 29, 2020.
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Hector Retamal / AFP / Getty

Source: Business Insider


As panic began to spread throughout China, videos surfaced of infected people being shoved into plastic boxes and tubes as authorities tried to contain the virus.

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Twitter/MissXQ/RFA_Chinese/Business Insider

Source: Business Insider


Shortly after Wuhan, two other Chinese cities, Huanggang and Ezhou, closed down their transportation, as well. At this point, 19 million people were put on lockdown.

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Mask-wearing passengers in Shanghai catch one of the final trains into Wuhan before a lockdown was imposed on January 23, 2020.
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Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


But the virus continued to spread. On January 23, the death toll grew to 26.

Source: Business Insider


On January 24, as cases in China rose over 1,000 and the death toll climbed to 41, the government expanded the lockdown to include 13 cities. Now 36 million people were restricted.

Source: The Guardian


The virus had now spread to nine countries and authorities in Wuhan struggled to contain an influx of patients.

Source: Business Insider


One doctor in Wuhan said thousands of patients had been left waiting hours for treatment, and that doctors were advised not to work over fears they could become infected.

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This photo taken on January 22, 2020 shows medical staff members wearing protective suits at the Zhongnan hospital in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province.
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STR/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Protective gear and test-kits had become so sparse in Wuhan that people reportedly likened their chances to receiving them as “winning the lottery”.

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A security official stands guard as an ambulance arrives with a patient to the Infectious Disease Centre of Princess Margaret Hospital on January 22, 2020 in Hong Kong.
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Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


On January 25, the Chinese government barred citizens from booking overseas flights, hotels, and tours.

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A worker in protective suits checks the temperature of a passenger arriving at the Xianning North Station on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, in Xianning, a city bordering Wuhan to the north, in Hubei province, China January 24, 2020.
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REUTERS/Martin Pollard

Source: Business Insider


By January 28, the number of cities under quarantine grew to 16, and an estimated 50 million people were lockdown in the Hubei Province.

Source: Business Insider


On January 30, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “global emergency” as cases in China rose in the thousands and multiple countries — including the US — reported infections.

Source: Business Insider


As hospitals struggled to treat an influx of new patients, the Chinese government announced plans to build two new hospitals in Wuhan within days.

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A composite image showing construction on a new hospital in Wuhan, China on January 24 and medical staff in the city on January 22.
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STR/AFP via Getty Images/Xinhua/Cheng Min via Getty Images/Business Insider

Source: Business Insider


Huoshenshan Hospital was completed 10 days later, on February 3, and is located on the outskirts of the city. It has an area of 270,000 square feet, and is equipped with 1,000 beds, and 1,400 military medics of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army as staff.

Source: Business Insider


The second hospital, Leishenshan Hospital, was built in 15 days to provide 1,600 extra beds for the city.

Source: Business Insider


On January 31, the US government announced plans to bar foreign travelers from entering the US if they have traveled to China within 14 days. And the Pentagon has started preparing quarantine facilities that can hold up to 1,000 people entering the US, if necessary.

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Members of the Thai Airways crew prepare to disinfect the cabin of an aircraft to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, January 28, 2020.
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REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

Source: Business Insider


By early February, Chinese authorities began using extreme measures to quell the outbreak in Wuhan, including door-to-door searches, excessive sanitation, and gathering sick people in quarantine centers.

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Volunteers from the Blue Sky Rescue team disinfect at the Qintai Grand Theatre in Wuhan,
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Aly Song/ REUTERS

Source: The New York Times


On February 7, a Chinese doctor, who was silenced by authorities in January for sounding the alarm on the virus outbreak, died from contracting coronavirus. He was later honored as a martyr.

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Li Wenliang wears a respirator mask, following the coronavirus outbreak, in Wuhan, China, February 3, 2020.
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LI WENLIANG/GAN EN FUND via REUTERS

Source: Business Insider


Patients in Wuhan began to be admitted into makeshift hospitals, including a sports stadium, an exhibition center, and a building complex. Three such facilities were prepared to add 3,400 new beds.

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A worker sets up beds at the Hongshan Stadium to convert it into a makeshift hospital following an outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 4, 2020.
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China Daily via REUTERS

Source: Business Insider


By February 13, more than 14,000 new cases were documented in the Hubei province, bringing the total to 48,206. Nearly 2,000 new cases a day were reported around this time.

Source: The New York Times


To slow the outbreak, China postponed all non-urgent medical care and made many doctor’s visits remote. They also walled off entire medical wards to exclusively treat coronavirus patients.

Source: Business Insider


By mid-February, hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers and volunteers were positioned around the country to restrict the movement of millions of people through blocking travel, and ensuring people stay in their homes.

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Cleaners wash a street in the quarantined city of Wuhan with a high-pressure water gun on February 3, 2020.
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Getty Images

Source: The New York Times


China also began tracking people exposed to the virus through a mobile technology surveillance system that was developed during the SARS outbreak.

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A man has his temperature checked as he leaves the Hankou railway station in Wuhan
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HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


On March 11, the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic, and China’s cases appeared to be dropping. At this time the country had more than 80,000 reported cases.

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A chart showing the number of active coronavirus cases on March 26 with data from the website Worldometer.
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Worldometer

Source: Business Insider, NPR


By March 19, China reported zero new local infections for the first time since the outbreak began.

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A man wears a mask while walking in the street in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.
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Getty

Source: Business Insider


On March 24, the government announced that the mandatory lockdown in Wuhan would be lifted on April 8, with some traffic control measures being lifted on March 25.

Source: CBS


Two weeks later, at midnight on April 8, the lockdown was officially lifted allowing traffic to funnel in and out of the city.

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A guard stands before traffic in Wuhan.
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Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Residents are now permitted to leave Wuhan, but only if they have a mandatory smartphone application that monitors their health and determines how far they are able to travel.

Source: Business Insider


China has officially reported 82,718 cases and 3,335 deaths as of April 7. But many believe the real numbers are much higher and suspect the Chinese government worked to conceal the actual statistics and give false information throughout the outbreak.

Source: Business Insider


Public health experts worry Wuhan’s reopening could trigger a second wave of infections in China. “This day does not mark the final victory,” the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper People’s Daily said in in editorial. “At this moment, we still need to remind ourselves that as Wuhan is unblocked, we can be pleased, but we must not relax.”

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Travelers walk past Wuhan’s Hankou railway station a day before it resumes outbound traffic.

Sources: Business Insider, AP