Feature: Newlyweds recall time of fighting COVID-19 in Wuhan

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WUHAN, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- Recalling their days together during the lockdown of Wuhan, the former epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak in China, newlyweds Chen Lei and Zhang Liuqing found themselves relying more on their family.

Both Chen and Zhang are real property managers. While Zhang worked in Wuhan, Chen transferred to Nanchang, a city around 350 km away from Wuhan, for over a year.

The two had previously planned to register for marriage in Wuhan during the 2020 Chinese Lunar New Year holiday but were hindered by the city's unexpected lockdown in January last year.

"The epidemic messed up our arrangement but also gave us a rare chance to stay together all day long," said Chen.

"At the height of the epidemic, I felt that the end of the world was coming," said Zhang, his 33-year-old fiancee, noting that the company of her parents and fiance relieved her anxiety.

But what encouraged Zhang most was the swift gathering of medical staff nationwide to Wuhan. "They sacrificed their family reunion time to guard the safety of millions of Wuhan residents," she added.

As Wuhan's epidemic gradually eased, the life of the two lovers at home also warmed up. "We played badminton every day to stretch our bodies and found our new common hobby -- cooking," said the 34-year-old fiance.

Marriage registration in Wuhan resumed in April 2020, after a suspension of more than two months due to the epidemic.

"We ordered the earliest time slot that was available," said Chen, who got his marriage certificate on April 7.

Marriage registration in Wuhan used to culminate in a ceremony, where newlyweds obtained the certificate, made marriage vows, and smiled for the cameras. This ritual, however, was suspended as the city called for continued vigilance against the virus.

"We filled out some forms to get the certificate, with no more ceremonies," Zhang said.

However simplified the ritual was, the lovebirds could not restrain the desire to kiss each other, though separated by their masks. And the scene was free-framed by a Xinhua photographer at the site.

"We barely had any photos together, and this one was special and precious for me," said Zhang, who preserved the photo on her mobile phone and looked at it from time to time.

"It was like a milestone for me -- our relationship entered a new phase, and our city later lifted the month-long outbound traffic restrictions," Zhang said.

As Wuhan returned to normality, Chen returned to Nanchang to deal with his work backlog for over two months. On April 8, Zhang tearfully drove him to take the earliest train back to work. "Be careful of your safety, and I will wait for you at home," she said.

"For the first time, I found the word 'home' irresistible," said Chen, who had defined himself as a workaholic, noting that living together with family during the epidemic made him nostalgic upon departure.

"Now I will go home to be with my family when I'm free on weekends," Chen told Xinhua.

The next time the couple reunited was April 25, when Zhang took the high-speed train to celebrate her birthday with Chen in Nanchang.

"When my husband left Wuhan in early April, he had to provide the negative nucleic acid test certificate. Weeks later, I could only leave the city with my green health code on the phone," said Zhang. She noted that the simplified procedure made her feel that her city was no longer a dangerous place.

"But the real ending of our psychological lockdown was in June when nearly 10 million Wuhan residents completed their COVID-19 tests. Since then, we were sure that we lived in a secure city and could step out of our houses," Zhang added.

In July, Zhang gave birth to a daughter. "After the epidemic, all we wish for the baby is that she grows up happily. We hope for her not to have too much pressure in her life," said Zhang.

Now, the couple calls each other on weekdays via video to follow the baby's growth. And on weekends, they meet once in Wuhan or Nanchang.

"We usually walked along the greenway in the East Lake to enjoy the sunshine and the fresh air, and so did many others," said Zhang, adding that as time went on, more and more people visited the scenic spot in Wuhan.

"But nearly everyone wore a mask. The city resumed cautiously," she added.

As the Chinese Lunar New Year is coming up, the couple plans to share their holiday again in Wuhan.

"I hope we can all cherish the present and live a happy life," Chen said when talking about their new year wishes. Enditem

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