Coronavirus pandemic

Wuhan guards against virus rebound

People urged to avoid non-essential outings, stay vigilant as city starts to ease travel curbs

WUHAN • The top official in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic in China, yesterday warned residents to boost self-protection measures and avoid going out as Beijing preaches vigilance to prevent a resurgence of infections.

Mr Wang Zhonglin, Wuhan's Communist Party chief, said the risk of a rebound remained high due to internal and external risks and that it must maintain its prevention and control measures.

Wuhan, capital of central Hubei province and home to about 11 million people, has been the hardest hit with 50,007 confirmed cases as of Thursday. Hubei, for example, reported 51 new asymptomatic cases on Thursday and has a total of 742 people infected with the coronavirus but not exhibiting symptoms under medical observation.

The city is due to ease travel curbs on April 8 as the number of reported infections dwindles, with volunteers in hazmat suits spraying public areas with disinfectant in preparation for an increase in activity.

But Mr Wang said individual residential compounds should remain vigilant and take virus prevention measures, according to a statement from the local government.

China, which appears to have curbed the epidemic through draconian travel restrictions that paralysed the country and its economy for two months, will hold a national mourning today for "martyrs" who died in the fight against the disease, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Three minutes of silence will be observed at 10am, "while air raid sirens and horns of automobiles, trains and ships will wail in grief", the report said. National flags will fly at half-mast across the country and in all Chinese embassies and consulates abroad, while all public recreational activities will be suspended.

China has also seen a gradual reintroduction of restrictions in some regions, including closures of cinemas that had been allowed to reopen, amid worries that early relaxation of lockdowns could spark another wave of infections just as the world's second-largest economy is struggling to get back on its feet.

A county in central Henan province on Wednesday banned people from leaving without proper authorisation and prevented residents from leaving their homes for work without clearance, after several new infections in the area.

Top officials are also ordering the local health authorities to step up detection, monitoring and supervision of the infected patients who have yet to show symptoms.

Wuhan, for example, reported 35 new asymptomatic cases on Wednesday and has a total of 678 people infected with the coronavirus but not exhibiting symptoms under medical observation.

Beijing has also indefinitely banned foreigners from entering the country to curb imported cases involving travellers from overseas, though it has chartered planes to repatriate Chinese nationals in countries with severe outbreaks.

China reported 31 new confirmed coronavirus cases, including two locally transmitted infections, its National Health Commission said yesterday. It also reported four new deaths as of Thursday, all in Wuhan.

The total number of infections now stands at 81,620 and 3,322 deaths have been reported to date.

The commission said 60 new asymptomatic coronavirus patients were also reported on Thursday.

REUTERS, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2020, with the headline 'Wuhan guards against virus rebound'. Print Edition | Subscribe