BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Mainland China reported no new locally transmitted cases of coronavirus for the sixth time in eight days as Hubei province, where the virus was first detected, opened its borders, but imported cases rose as Beijing ramped up controls to prevent a resurgence of infections.
Cao Junjie poses for a picture with his two-month old baby inside a safety pod he created to protect his baby from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a residential compound in Shanghai, China March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Xihao Jiang NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
All 67 new cases reported by the end of Wednesday were imported, and all 47 reported the previous day were imported too, the 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.
Hubei province, home to some 60 million people, reported no new cases on Wednesday and opened its borders. Public transport restarted and residents Xianning, a city in Hubei, strolled the streets wearing masks.
In Xianning, residents carried out their daily shopping errands at local fruit and vegetable shops, while hairdressers and bike repair shops were also open. One group of women sat outside a shuttered shop, playing with a pair of 2 year old male twins who were wearing masks.
“The lifting of the lockdown is both good and bad,” said one of the women, who gave her name as Chen. “A lot of people can leave, but it also raises the risk. The situation in Hubei was so severe, and I’ve gotten used to staying at home for the last two months. It’s safer that way.”
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.
The fatality rate in Wuhan stood at about 5%, said Qiu Haibo, a medical expert on a panel led by the central government, according to the official People’s Daily on Thursday.
About 90% of all the imported cases are Chinese passport holders, Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui told a press conference on Thursday, adding that 40% of them are overseas Chinese students returning amid rising infections abroad.
“We understand some overseas students are eager to come home…But under the current circumstances, by staying put, they can avoid being cross-infected in the hurried journey home or getting stuck mid-journey when the countries they transit in tighten border controls,” Luo said.
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.
Of the new case reported on Wednesday, Shanghai reported the most with 18, followed by Inner Mongolia region at 12 and Guangdong province at 11.
The number of new daily cases in China 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.
In a briefing on Thursday, an official at China’s water resources ministry said that the country plans to invest in over 100 water treatment and delivery projects worth more than 1 trillion yuan ($140.97 billion) in the next three years to boost the economy and stabilise employment.
Shi Chunxian said every 100 billion yuan of investment in key water projects will boost GDP growth by 0.15 percentage points and create 490,000 jobs, citing a state think tank study.
In the latest sign of a return to normal life, Shanghai officials said on Thursday that the city’s cinemas would reopen on March 28.
Reporting by Se Young Lee, David Stanway, Yew Lun Tian, Brenda Goh, Yawen Chen and Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Michael Perry & Simon Cameron-Moore