BEIJING: China’s central Hubei province, where the deadly coronavirus first emerged late last year, is to lift travel curbs after two months under lockdown, local officials said on Tuesday (Mar 24).
Healthy residents will be allowed to leave the province from midnight Tuesday.
Travel restrictions for leaving Wuhan will be lifted on Apr 8, and people will be able to leave on the basis of a health code, a QR code which will have an individual’s health status linked to it.
The announcement came as China reported 78 new cases of the deadly coronavirus on Tuesday, with the vast majority brought in from overseas as fears rise of a second wave of infections.
The first new case in nearly a week was also reported in Wuhan – the epicentre where the virus emerged last year – along with three other local infections elsewhere in the country.
Seven more people died, the National Health Commission said, all in Wuhan.
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In other parts of the country, 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 on Tuesday that everyone entering the city will be subject to centralised quarantine and health checks.
The southern city of Shenzhen said on Tuesday it will test all arrivals and the Chinese territory of Macau will ban 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.
There have now been more than 81,000 cases in China, and the death toll has reached 3,277.
CONCERNS ABOUT NEW WAVE OF INFECTIONS
Of China’s four new locally transmitted infections on Monday, one was in Wuhan, the capital of central Hubei province. This follows five days of no new infections in the city.
The newly-infected individual is a doctor at a hospital in Wuhan, according to a statement from the local government’s health commission. They have not ruled out that the doctor may have been infected while at the hospital.
Guangdong reported on Monday a local case linked to an infected individual from Hubei.
Policymakers are conscious of the potential social instability and economic disruption that a new wave of infections could cause, especially in Hubei, where factories and businesses are only just starting to resume work.
A private survey on Tuesday suggested that a 10-11 per cent contraction in first-quarter gross domestic product “is not unreasonable”.
Many Chinese say they remain worried about the possibility of a new wave of infections as more people return to work as severe travel restrictions are eased with slowing infections.
They are also cautious of spending too much, concerned about job security as the economy slows.
The epidemic has hammered all sectors of the economy – from manufacturing to tourism. To persuade businesses to reopen, policymakers have promised loans, aids and subsidies.
In Beijing, the city is reopening the Badaling section of the Great Wall, an infamously crowded part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the impoverished province of Gansu, government officials are each required to spend at least 200 yuan (US$28.25) a week to spur the recovery of the local catering industry