WUHAN, China – The noodles smothered in peanut sauce are as much a trademark of Wuhan as deep-dish pizza in Chicago or spaghetti in Rome. Zhou Guoqiong still isn't allowed to serve customers inside her shop, but the stream of eager customers now lining up outside to take away those noodles testifies to the powerful desire to savor the familiar again after the easing of months of strict lockdown.
Despite radically falling numbers of coronavirus infections, officials emphasize that Wuhan and the rest of China still have a long way to go. But the reappearance of Wuhan's favorite breakfast noodles is a tasty sign that life is slowly beginning to transition to normal in the Chinese city that served as the original epicenter of the global outbreak, first detected in December.
Five days after reopening, Zhou and her husband now sell several hundred bags of “reganmian,” or hot dry noodles, every day – less than before the outbreak, but enough to keep them busy.
“I'm happy as long as there is business,” Zhou said.
Wuhan has recorded 2,548 deaths from the coronavirus and reported more than 50,000 cases, and the city essentially shut down starting Jan. 23.
The head of the National Health Commission, Ma Xiaowei, said Tuesday that the “most dangerous, most critical stage” of the domestic outbreak appears to have passed. But he was insistent that strict quarantines on travelers and other restrictions such as school closures will be lifted only gradually and very, very carefully.
“At present, the epidemic situation in China is not over,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily briefing.
China says almost all of its coronavirus cases are now brought into the country by travelers from abroad, and Wuhan has not recorded any new confirmed or suspected cases in a week. Officials have said it must go a full 14 consecutive days without new cases before they lift draconian travel restrictions and social distancing demands.
That can't come soon enough for Mr. Xiao, who runs a small butcher shop and tries to be guardedly optimistic about the future. He said his stock can last 10 days at the most and he needs to see a big jump in business.
“I estimate in the next several months, I can sell half a cow every day,” said Xiao, who declined to give his full name.