WUHAN, China | The image had become the symbol of the chaos that reigned in Wuhan struggling with the coronavirus: the body of a man lying for several hours on a sidewalk before being carried away by nervous and overwhelmed rescue workers.
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The scene, captured exactly a year ago by AFP, occurred near a hospital in the Chinese metropolis at the epicenter of the epidemic.
And if the cause of death has never been established, this stranger lying on his back has nevertheless become abroad the symbol of a city submerged by a mysterious killer virus.
In Wuhan, since recovery from COVID-19, this death, among thousands of others, remains totally unrecognized. Including in the street where the gray haired man, who wore a mask, took his last breath.
It is “certainly a rumor or a lie of foreign media”, assures Yuan Shaohua, whose fruit shop, located a few tens of meters from the place of death, was however one of the rare establishments of the neighborhood open that day, in full containment.
Mr. Yuan affirms “not to be aware” of the incident which occurred at the foot of a typical building of the years 1990, whose ground floor is occupied by local businesses.
In a ghost town placed in quarantine for a week, “people did not dare to leave” their homes, recalls the 46-year-old man, white cap on his head.
At the time, the few passers-by preferred to ignore the corpse, avoiding approaching it for fear of the virus.
In China, the photo of the “dead Wuhan” circulated on social networks, but the vast majority of the media have ignored the matter.
A few days later, rare articles (without the photo) of the official press brought up the facts by giving the floor to the so-called family of the deceased, a certain “Mr. Xie”.
The family cited assured that he was not sick with COVID-19 and called for “to respect (his) privacy”. The age of the victim was not specified.
His death occurred a few dozen meters from Wuhan Number 6 Hospital … an establishment which then housed coronavirus patients.
And in the context of the epidemic, the emergency services and the police had at the time taken extreme precautions with the body: the deceased had remained on the sidewalk for more than two hours, before being carried away by staff in full suits. .
That day, at least 15 ambulances, responding to other calls, had passed by without stopping.
At the time, as a year later, neither the hospital nor the local authorities responded to a request for information on the identity of the victim and the causes of his death.
And the dozen traders and residents of the neighborhood interviewed by AFP express their disbelief.
The death of this man, “I had never heard of it”, is surprised Huang Shunxing, at the sight of the cliché in question, taken practically in front of the doorstep of this shopkeeper close to fifty.
The stranger expired in front of a furniture store now replaced by a supermarket and a modest lottery shop opened last summer by Ms. Huang, unmoved despite the news.
This reminder of the drama of a year ago fits badly with the narrative imposed by the Communist regime, which tries to make people forget the chaos of the first weeks of the epidemic. Beijing now insists on the virtual eradication of the virus on national soil, in contrast to the situation in the rest of the world.
In Wuhan now, “business is going well! », Smiles the dynamic manager, who was unemployed a year ago.
Dressed in a black coat and standing behind a display of scratch cards, she says she is “delighted” to have moved to a city that is now “safe” in terms of health.
Same perplexity on the part of one of his clients, Mr. Wang, 58, yet very aware of the neighborhood news.
He claims to have learned “very early”, in December 2019, the existence of a mysterious disease thanks to messages circulating on social networks.
But a few meters away, “the dead Wuhan” left him no memory.
Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my email@example.com 1-800-268-7116