Passengers wearing face masks ride a ferry on Yangtze River after travel restrictions to leave Wuhan, the capital of Hubei…
Passengers ride a ferry on the Yangtze River after travel restrictions to leave Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and China's epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, were lifted, April 8, 2020.

Residents of the central Chinese city of Wuhan began traveling outside the city limits Thursday, the first day after a virtual lockdown imposed nearly three months ago to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus was lifted.

Chinese aviation authorities say there were about 221 flights coming in and out of Wuhan on Wednesday, the first day residents were allowed to travel freely. Over 500,000 people drove across and through bridges, tunnels and highway toll booths that had been closed since the lockdown was imposed back in January, isolating Wuhan’s 11 million citizens from the outside world.

The virus was first detected last December in Wuhan, the capital of the central Hubei province, and quickly spread outside its borders as residents began traveling for the annual Lunar New Year holiday.  The city accounts for the majority of China’s 82,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 3,300 deaths.

Residents are permitted to leave as long as they show a green “health code” on a mandatory smartphone app, indicating they have been determined to be healthy enough to travel.

Part of the "health code" approval is based on their neighborhood having been declared coronavirus-free. Many travelers from Wuhan will also face two-week quarantines when they reach their destination provinces.  

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