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KEN MORITSUGU Wed, December 16, 2020, 10:00 AM GMT+5BEIJING (AP) — Workers have returned to factories, students are back in the classroom and once again long lines form outside popular hot pot restaurants. In major cities, wearing a surgical mask — though no longer required outside of subways and other crowded places — has become a habit.In many ways, normal life has resumed in China, the country where COVID-19 first appeared one year ago.“It feels like life has recovered,” said moviegoer Meng Xiangyu, when Beijing theaters re-opened with 30 percent of their seating after a six-month hiatus. “Everything feels fresh.”China’s ruling Communist Party has withdrawn some of the most sweeping anti-disease controls ever imposed, but remains on guard against fresh outbreaks and cases from abroad. Health authorities report a dozen or so imported cases every day.The challenge is jobs: The economy is growing again, but the recovery is uneven. Many big manufacturers are back to normal, but consumer spending remains tepid and smaller companies are contracting or closing.By mid-December, the country had reported just six cases per 100,000 population. China does not include people who test positive but show no symptoms in its confirmed case counts.Questions persist about how officials initially tried to cover up the outbreak and whether it was larger than the ruling Communist Party has acknowledged. The lockdown came too late to prevent the then-unnamed disease from ravaging the city of Wuhan and seeping out to the rest of China and overseas.But since March, when COVID-19 was largely curbed at home, authorities have moved swiftly to stamp out any reappearance, locking down neighborhoods and conducting widespread testing.“What was the most dangerous place is now the safest place of all,” said Chen Jin, who sells barbecue skewers at an outdoor night market in Wuhan. His business hasn’t recovered but he hopes to see more customers in 2021.Life has changed. Virtually everyone has a smartphone app that indicates if they have been in an infected area. It must be shown to gain admission to many office buildings, shopping centers and tourist sites. Some attractions limit the number of daily visitors.

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