China guards against second wave of coronavirus coming from abroad

WUHAN, China (Reuters) – The growing number of imported coronavirus cases in China risked fanning a second wave of infections at a time when “domestic transmission has basically been stopped”, a spokesman for the National Health Commission said on Sunday.

“China already has an accumulated total of 693 cases entering from overseas, which means the possibility of a new round of infections remains relatively big,” Mi Feng, the spokesman, said.

In the last seven days, China has reported 313 imported cases of coronavirus but only 6 confirmed cases of domestic transmission, the commission’s data showed.

There were 45 new coronavirus cases reported in the mainland for Saturday, down from 54 on the previous day, with all but one involving travelers from overseas.

Most of those imported cases have involved Chinese returning home from abroad.

Airlines have been ordered to sharply cut international flights from Sunday. And restrictions on foreigners entering the country went into effect on Saturday.

Five more people died on Saturday, all of them in Wuhan, the industrial central city where the epidemic began in December. But Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, has reported only one new case on the last 10 days.

A total of 3,300 people have now died in mainland China, with a reported 81,439 infections.

Saturday marked the fourth consecutive day that Hubei province recorded no new confirmed cases. The sole case of domestically transmitted coronavirus was recorded in Henan province, bordering Hubei.

With traffic restrictions in the province lifted, Wuhan is also gradually reopening borders and restarting some local transportation services.

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  • China says imported virus cases raise risk of new infection wave

“It’s much better now, there was so much panic back then. There weren’t any people on the street. Nothing. How scary the epidemic situation was,” a man, who gave his surname as Hu,

told Reuters as he ventured out to buy groceries in Wuhan.

“Now, it is under control. Now, it’s great, right?”

All airports in Hubei resumed some domestic flights on Sunday, with the exception of Wuhan’s Tianhe airport, which will open to domestic flights on April 8. Flights from Hubei to Beijing remain suspended.

A train arrived in Wuhan on Saturday for the first time since the city was placed in lockdown two months ago. Greeting the train, Hubei Communist Party Secretary Ying Yong described Wuhan as “a city full of hope” and said the heroism and hard work of its people had “basically cut off transmission” of the virus.

More than 60,000 people entered Wuhan on Saturday after rail services were officially restarted, with more than 260 trains arriving or traveling through, the People’s Daily reported on Sunday.

On Sunday, streets and metro trains were still largely empty amid a cold rainy day. Flashing signs on the Wuhan Metro, which resumed operations on Saturday, said its cars would keep passenger capacity at less than 30%.

The Hubei government on Sunday said on its official WeChat account that a number of malls in Wuhan, as well as the Chu River and Han Street shopping belt, will be allowed to resume operations on March 30.

Concerns have been raised that a large number of undiagnosed asymptomatic patients could return to circulation once transport restrictions are eased.

China’s top medical adviser, Zhong Nanshan, played down that risk in comments to state broadcaster CCTV on Sunday. Zhong said asymptomatic patients were usually found by tracing the contacts of confirmed cases, which had so far shown no sign of rebounding.

With the world’s second-biggest economy expected to shrink for the first time in four decades this quarter, China is set to unleash hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus.

The ruling Communist Party’s Politburo called on Friday for a bigger budget deficit, the issuance of more local and national bonds, and steps to guide interest rates lower, delay loan repayments, reduce supply-chain bottlenecks and boost consumption.

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China reports second consecutive day of no new local coronavirus transmissions, imported cases rise

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Mainland China reported a second consecutive day of no new local coronavirus infections as the epicentre of the epidemic Hubei province opened its borders, but imported cases rose as Beijing ramped up controls to prevent a resurgence of infections.

A total of 67 new cases were reported as of end-Wednesday, up from 47 a day earlier, all of which were imported, China’s National Health Commission said in a statement on Thursday.

The total number of cases now stands at 81,285.

The commission reported a total of 3,287 deaths at the end of Wednesday, up six from the previous day.

All of the new patients were travellers who came to China from overseas, with the mainland reporting no locally transmitted infections on Wednesday.

Shanghai reported the most cases with 18 followed by Inner Mongolia region at 12 and Guangdong province at 11.

The number of new daily cases remain down sharply from the height of the outbreak in the country in February, allowing Beijing to push for restarting economic activity in the world’s second biggest economy.

Hubei province, home to some 60 million people, reported no new cases on Wednesday and opened its borders. Public transport restarted and residents in the city of Xianning strolled the streets wearing masks.

The lockdown of Hubei’s capital Wuhan, where the virus first appeared late last year, will be lifted on April 8, a milestone in China’s war against the epidemic as Beijing shifts its focus towards stemming imported cases and rebooting the economy.

Fearing a new wave of infections from imported cases, authorities have ramped up quarantine and screening measures in other major cities including Beijing, where any travellers arriving from overseas must submit to centralised quarantine.

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Coronavirus: World leaders to hold virtual summit on global coronavirus response

World leaders are planning an unprecedented virtual summit to coordinate a global response to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Saudi organisers told Sky News there is a need to agree on how to move forward collectively on the COVID-19 emergency.

They discussed the role of the IMF, World Bank and other international financial institutions to “deploy all available resources and explore additional measures needed to support financial stability and alleviate liquidity constraints for emerging markets and developing economies”.

A Saudi official told Sky News the leaders will meet by teleconference to address the lack of cooperation over the virus outbreak across borders.

Leaders will discuss how to work in a concerted international way to improve global planning, coordinate rules on travel, increase production and distribution of medical equipment and most importantly share and disseminate information and expertise about the virus.

Just as in international summits in more normal times, the leaders will meet and their experts and officials will meet virtually to follow up with concrete action.

Critics will ask why it is taking so long for world leaders to convene the summit, given the urgency of the situation.

Unfavourable comparisons have been drawn with the international response to the 2008-2009 financial crisis, where swift international action saved the global financial system from possible collapse.

Gordon Brown, Britain’s prime minister during that crisis, last week said the response was being hampered by ‘too much populist nationalism’.

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