The Chinese government will begin easing restrictions on travel to and from Hubei province, which caused the coronavirus pandemic, in an important step in the country’s two-month battle against the health crisis.
The Hubei Health Commission has announced that liberalization will begin on Wednesday and will initially apply to all regions of the province, except Wuhan, the provincial capital, where the travel ban will remain in effect until April 8.
The announcement comes two weeks after President Xi Jinping’s visit to the city, signaling that the Chinese government had estimated that it had reached a turning point in the effort to control the epidemic.
A Chinese medical researcher, who asked not to be identified, said that Xi’s trip signaled that “the first stage of the control and prevention work has been completed.” But he added that “we must not let our guard down. . . if not managed properly, the situation could fluctuate. ”
The Hubei Health Commission added that the measures had been approved by the central government. Last month, the head of the commission, as well as senior Chinese Communist Party officials responsible for Hubei and Wuhan, were fired for mismanaging the initial response to the epidemic.
The global spread of the coronavirus has crippled the global economy, with new infections increasing exponentially in Europe and the United States.
Italy and the United States are on track to register more officially confirmed infections than China in the coming weeks. The Italian government has already reported more than 6,000 deaths from the highly contagious respiratory disease, nearly double the number in China.
But China, which officially has 81,171 cases, does not include positive tests for people who do not have symptoms. If asymptomatic cases were included, its official tally would be around 50% higher.
In the United States, health experts warn of the possible emergence of “several Wuhans“If new foreclosures in states like California and New York aren’t strictly enforced or dropped.
In recent days, nationwide bans and curfews have been put in place in the UK and India. Other countries and territories, including Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, have banned all tourist arrivals due to concerns about a potential second wave of infections arriving with people who have traveled abroad.
With Chinese health officials now reporting no new cases transmitted locally almost daily, attention has also focused on preventing further outbreaks from so-called imported cases when Chinese nationals and expatriates return to the country.
Beijing is diverting international flights to other cities where people have to pass screening before they can continue to the capital for around 14 days.
While some provinces and cities in China have set dates for the reopening of schools, the Hubei Health Commission said the schools would remain closed. Beijing also did not say when classes will resume.
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