Coronavirus: Five more Chinese regions lower emergency response level as threat recedes

Police officers wearing protective face masks walking with horses on their way to visit residents who live in remote areas in Xinjiang, China, on Feb 19, 2020.
Police officers wearing protective face masks walking with horses on their way to visit residents who live in remote areas in Xinjiang, China, on Feb 19, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - Five Chinese regions have downgraded their emergency response level after assessing that health risks from the coronavirus outbreak have receded, state media and government authorities reported on Wednesday (Feb 26).

The north-western Chinese regions of Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang, the south-western province of Sichuan, the north-eastern province of Jilin and the southern island of Hainan have all cut their emergency response levels.

China has a four-tier response system for public health emergencies that determines what measures a region will implement, with level I the most serious.

Sichuan announced it would adjust its measures from level I to level II, while Inner Mongolia will change from level I to level III, state news agency Xinhua said on Wednesday.

Sichuan said every locality will be required to return to work and develop targeted prevention and control programmes for areas still deemed "high risk".

The region of Xinjiang, home to China's Muslim Uighur population, also reduced its emergency response level from I to II after reporting no new cases for seven consecutive days, the official local news portal said on Wednesday.

Elsewhere, Jilin province also cut its emergency response level from I to II, according to a notice posted on an official government website.

Hainan island also did the same, from level I to III, according to a notice on the Haikou city government's official WeChat channel.

The provinces of Gansu, Yunnan, Guangdong, Shanxi, Guizhou and Anhui have also cut their emergency response levels in the last few days.


Some regions, including Fujian in the south-east, are also starting to dismantle emergency roadblocks designed to screen incoming vehicles and curb the contagion.

The flu-like disease, which was first detected in the city of Wuhan last December, has infected more than 80,000 people globally and killed more than 2,700 in mainland China.

The World Health Organisation has said the epidemic in China peaked between Jan 23 and Feb 2 and has been in decline since.

With the economy reeling as a result of nationwide industrial closures and transportation disruptions, China has been urging "low-risk" regions to get back to work as quickly as possible.

An official with China's state planning agency said on Tuesday that a more targeted approach to curbing the virus was required, and governments in low-risk areas must do their utmost to "restore order in production and life".

A Reuters poll of economists found the Chinese economy is forecast to grow at its slowest pace in the current quarter since the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, with a worst-case scenario showing it at 3.5 per cent, nearly half of the 6.0 per cent reported in the fourth quarter of 2019.