Every year, on Aug 25, China celebrities the Qixi Festival, the nation's equivalent of Valentine's Day.  Rooted in a mythical romance between an oxherd and a weaver girl, it's when romance blooms and gooey-eyed sweethearts exchange overpriced trinkets.

In the central city of Wuhan, where the Covid-19 pandemic first emerged in December couples relished this year's festivities more than most. Ding Hui, 33, contracted the virus in mid January and only survived after being intubated in an intensive care unit.

As young Chinese begin to gratefully plan for the future once again, Wuhan remains a very, contradictory place, desperate to banish bad memories that it cannot afford to forget.

At her party, between joshing with friends from behind comical pink sunglasses, Ding makes sure to to spray the takeaway food containers with sterilizing ethanol.

In the building's lobby, a vending machine sponsored by US conglomerate 3M sells masks, hand synthizers and other plague sundries. The economy is still suffering, the latest data from May, suggests factory output, retail sales, and exports in Wuhan are a long way from returning to normal, while many shops and businesses have closed for good.

''Wuhan is a badly injured child, still slowly recovering,'' says Ding.

The World Students Society thanks author Charlie Campbell, Wuhan, China.


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