Even in winter temperatures of about 15 degrees Celsius (60F), a steady flow of hardy men and women wade into the brown waters of the Yangtze River in Wuhan and swim into the distance. The tradition pre-dates Mao, but it was embedded in Wuhan’s consciousness in 1966 when the then-73-year-old founder of communist China launched a political comeback with a carefully staged swim to prove he was in robust health. All that stopped when the coronavirus emerged in Wuhan about a year ago. The city of 11 million people was placed into a strict lockdown in January that dragged on for 76 days. Now, the daily swimmers are back.
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