Vendors return in Wuhan as China prepares virus memorial

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A vendor hands over grocery to another across barriers used to seal off a neighborhood to help curb the spread of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, Friday, April 3, 2020. Sidewalk vendors wearing face masks and gloves sold pork, tomatoes, carrots and other vegetables to shoppers Friday in the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic began as workers prepared for a national memorial this weekend for health workers and others who died in the outbreak. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

WUHAN – Sidewalk vendors wearing face masks and gloves sold pork, tomatoes, carrots and other vegetables to shoppers Friday in the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic began, as workers prepared for a national memorial this weekend for health workers and others who died in the outbreak.

Authorities are easing controls that kept Wuhan’s 11 million people at home for two months, but many shops are still closed. Shoppers and sellers in the Minyi neighborhood on the city’s southwest side had to do their business over high yellow barriers, as access to the community is still controlled.

“I don’t feel safe going to a supermarket,” said Zhan Zhongwu, who wore two layers of masks and was buying pork for his wife and grandchild. “There are too many people,” he said. “Many infections happened in the supermarket.”

Residents have been relying on online groceries and government-organized food deliveries after most access to the city was suspended Jan. 23 and restaurants, shops and other businesses shut down.

Wuhan and the rest of China are preparing for a nationwide three minutes of silence on Saturday in honor of the 3,322 people who officially died of the virus, including doctors, nurses and other health workers who have been declared martyrs.

They include Li Wenliang, an eye doctor in Wuhan who was reprimanded in December for warning about the virus and later died of the disease. He became a symbol of public anger at the ruling Communist Party for suppressing information about the coronavirus, possibly worsening its spread, before it took action in late January.

The party rescinded Li's reprimand and declared him a hero as part of a propaganda effort aimed at deflecting criticism of the official response.

On Saturday, national flags will be lowered to half-staff at 10 a.m. while air raid sirens and the horns of cars, trains and ships will “wail in grief,” the official Xinhua News Agency said.