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Wednesday Mar 25 2020
By
AFP

Initial Coronavirus epicentre Hubei eases restrictions as no local cases in China

By
AFP

BEIJING: After a months-long lockdown, China lifted tough restrictions on the province at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday, as the country reported no new local cases.

But there were another 47 imported infections from overseas, the National Health Commission said, as the number of cases brought into the country continued to swell.

In total, 474 imported infections have been diagnosed in China -- mostly Chinese nationals returning home according to the foreign ministry.

Four more people died, health officials said Wednesday, three in central Hubei province where the virus first emerged late last year.

China announced Tuesday that the lockdown would be lifted on more than 50 million people in Hubei, with residents now allowed to leave if healthy, with some airports and train stations opening.

Hubei ordered the shutdown in January but had been gradually easing rules and permitting people to move about within the province and return to work over recent days.

Hubei transport official Wang Benju said in a press briefing on Wednesday that all transport restrictions in the province except Wuhan will end by Friday.

The city of Wuhan -- the initial epicentre of the outbreak -- will allow residents to leave from April 8, and allow incoming trains to the city from March 28.

Wuhan airport will resume domestic passenger flights starting the same day, authorities said Wednesday -- but will not operate flights to and from Beijing.

Trains will begin arriving into all Wuhan stations from March 28, said Bao Liqun, deputy CEO of China Railway Wuhan Group.

Schools remain closed, however.

New cases have slowed dramatically over the last month.

But as nations globally struggle to contain the pandemic, surging numbers of imported cases in China are fuelling anxiety about a possible second wave of infections just as the country seems to be bringing its outbreak under control.

Many cities have brought in tough rules to quarantine arrivals, and all Beijing-bound international flights are being diverted to other urban centres where passengers are screened for the virus.

There have been more than 81,200 cases of COVID-19 in China and 3,281 deaths from the virus.