Roughly 65,000 people left the Chinese city of Wuhan by train and plane alone, within hours of the 11-week lockdown being lifted.
Wuhan| The Chinese city where the coronavirus epidemic first broke out, Wuhan, ended a two-month lockdown on Wednesday, but a northern town started restricting the movement of its residents amid concerns of the second wave of infections in mainland China.
Wuhan was sealed off 76 days ago to contain the coronavirus that first emerged there late last year.
China took the drastic decision to cut off the city of 11 million people on January 23 after it became clear that the virus was highly contagious and potentially deadly.
Over 50,000 people in Wuhan caught the virus, and more than 2,500 of them died, about 80% of all deaths in China, according to official figures.
Restrictions have eased in recent days as the capital of Hubei province saw only three new coronavirus cases were reported in the city in the previous three weeks, and a day after China reported no new deaths for the first time since January. Controls on outbound travel were officially lifted just after midnight in China.
But even as people leave the city, new imported cases in the northern province of Heilongjiang surged to a daily high of 25, fuelled by a continued influx of infected travellers arriving from Russia, which shares a land border with the province.
The decision to lift the ban – albeit with travellers required to meet certain conditions – came despite fears of a second wave of infection if restrictions were eased too soon.
Within hours of the lifting of the ban, roughly 65,000 people had left the city by train and plane alone, according to The Associated Press news agency, quoting local media reports.
People from Wuhan arriving in the Chinese capital Beijing will have to undergo two rounds of testing for the virus.
China maintains strict screening protocols, concerned about any resurgence in domestic transmissions due to virus carriers who exhibit no symptoms and infected travellers arriving from overseas.