Coronavirus pandemic

China guards against second wave, coming from abroad

WUHAN • The growing number of imported coronavirus cases in China risks fanning a second wave of infections at a time when "domestic transmission has basically been stopped", a spokesman for the National Health Commission said yesterday.

"China already has an accumulated total of 693 cases entering from overseas, which means the possibility of a new round of infections remains relatively big," said the spokesman.

In the last seven days, China has reported 313 imported cases of coronavirus but only six confirmed cases of domestic transmission, the commission's data showed.

There were 45 new coronavirus cases reported in China on Saturday, down from 54 the previous day, with all but one involving travellers from overseas.

Most of the imported cases have involved Chinese citizens returning from abroad. Airlines were ordered to sharply cut international flights from yesterday, while restrictions on foreigners entering the country went into effect on Saturday.

Five more people died on Saturday, all in Wuhan, where the epidemic began last December. But Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, has reported only one new case in the last 10 days.

A total of 3,300 people have now died in China, with a reported 81,439 infections.

Last Saturday marked the fourth consecutive day that Hubei province recorded no new confirmed cases. The sole case of locally transmitted coronavirus was recorded in Henan province, bordering Hubei.

With traffic restrictions in the province lifted, Wuhan is also gradually reopening borders and restarting some local transportation services. A man who gave his surname as Hu told Reuters as he ventured out to buy groceries in Wuhan: "It's much better now, there was so much panic back then. There weren't any people on the street. Nothing. How scary the epidemic situation was.

"Now, it is under control. Now, it's great, right?"

Some domestic flights resumed yesterday at all the airports in Hubei, with the exception of Wuhan's Tianhe airport, which will open to domestic flights on April 8.

Flights from Hubei to Beijing remain suspended. A train arrived in Wuhan last Saturday for the first time since the city was placed in lockdown two months ago.

Concerns have been raised that a large number of undiagnosed asymptomatic patients could return to circulation once transport restrictions are eased.

China's top medical adviser Zhong Nanshan played down that risk in comments to state broadcaster CCTV yesterday.

He said asymptomatic patients were usually found by tracing the contacts of confirmed cases, which had so far shown no sign of rebounding.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2020, with the headline 'China guards against second wave, coming from abroad'. Print Edition | Subscribe