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Photos show Wuhan, once epicenter of pandemic, crowded for New Year's celebrations

Wuhan, China, once the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, saw packed crowds ring in the New Year late Thursday, a scene that posed a stark contrast to other parts of the world holding smaller celebrations due to the virus.

Thousands were seen crowding the city, where just a year ago the outbreak of COVID-19 was first reported. According to reports, people were seen heading into clubs and celebrating by releasing balloons

However, photos showed crowds still wearing face masks.

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As of Sunday, Wuhan had reported a total of 50,354 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission

While the city has largely recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, a recent study published this week found case counts were likely higher than initially reported. 

As many as half a million residents of the Chinese city may have been infected with the virus, about 10 times more than the initially recorded number of confirmed cases. 

In the U.S., December was the deadliest month of the pandemic, with more than 63,000 deaths so far. April was previously the deadliest month of the pandemic, with more than 55,000 deaths.

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Officials in the states urged Americans to avoid large gatherings for New Year's Eve as the virus continues to spread. The annual New York City celebration in Times Square was held but with a new format, including virtual appearances and smaller crowds. 

The images in New York stand in stark contrast to Wuhan, but the celebration was still packed with celebrity appearances and musical performances.

Photos showed a quieter Time's Square, with those around wearing masks and social distancing.