Chinese authorities say they will lift a two-month lockdown in most of Hubei province, where the coronavirus pandemic originated, as the number of cases eases.
- Hubei has seen almost no new infections for more than a week
- The risk from overseas infections appears to be on the rise, China had 78 new cases on Monday
- Wuhan residents will soon be allowed to leave with a health tracking code
The Hubei Health Commission announced it would lift curbs on outgoing travellers starting on March 25, provided they had a health clearance code.
The provincial capital Wuhan, where the virus first appeared and which has been in total lockdown since January 23, will see its travel restrictions lifted on April 8.
Hubei has seen almost no new infections for more than a week.
Wuhan residents will soon be allowed to leave with a health tracking code, a QR code, which will have an individual’s health status linked to it.
Heightened controls in other provinces
The risk from overseas infections appeared to be on the rise, prompting tougher screening and quarantine measures in major cities such as the capital Beijing.
China had 78 new cases on Monday, the National Health Commission said, a two-fold increase from the previous day.
Of the new cases, 74 were imported infections, up from 39 imported cases a day earlier.
The Chinese capital Beijing was the hardest hit, with a record 31 new imported cases, followed by southern Guangdong province with 14 and the financial hub of Shanghai with nine.
The infections took the total number of imported cases to 427.
Only four new cases were local transmissions. One was in Wuhan which had not reported a new infection in five days.
Outside Hubei, authorities have continued to impose tougher screening and quarantine and have diverted international flights from Beijing to other Chinese cities, but that has not stemmed the influx of Chinese nationals, many of whom are students returning home from virus-hit countries.
Beijing’s City Government tightened quarantine rules for individuals arriving from overseas, saying that everyone entering the city will be subject to centralised quarantine and health checks.
The southern city of Shenzhen said it would test all arrivals and the Chinese territory of Macau has banned visitors from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The number of local infections from overseas arrivals — the first of which was reported in the southern travel hub of Guangzhou on Saturday —remains very small.
On Monday, Beijing saw its first case of a local person being infected by an international traveller arriving in China.
Shanghai reported a similar case, bringing the total number of such infections to three so far.
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Concerns about new wave of infections
The rise in imported cases and the lifting of restrictions in some cities to allow people to return to work and kickstart the battered Chinese economy has raised concerns of a second wave of infections.
A private survey suggested that a 10-11 per cent contraction in first-quarter gross domestic product in the world’s second-largest economy “is not unreasonable”.
The pandemic has hammered all sectors of the economy — from manufacturing to tourism.
To persuade businesses to reopen, policymakers have promised loans, aids and subsidies.
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In the impoverished province of Gansu, government officials have been each required to spend at least 200 yuan ($AU48.70) a week to spur the recovery of the local catering industry.
The official China Daily warned in an editorial that maintaining stringent restrictions on people’s movements would “now do more harm than good”.