BEIJING/SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - Mainland China reported a second consecutive day of no new local coronavirus infections as the epicentre of the epidemic Hubei province opened its borders, but imported cases rose as Beijing ramped up controls to prevent a resurgence of infections.
A total of 67 new cases were reported as of end-Wednesday (March 25), up from 47 a day earlier, all of which were imported, China’s National Health Commission said in a statement on Thursday.
The total number of cases now stands at 81,285.
The commission reported a total of 3,287 deaths at the end of Wednesday, up six from the previous day.
All of the new patients were travellers who came to China from overseas, with the mainland reporting no locally transmitted infections on Wednesday.
Shanghai reported the most cases with 18 followed by Inner Mongolia region at 12 and Guangdong province at 11.
About 90 per cent of all the imported cases are Chinese passport holders, Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui told a press conference on Thursday, adding that 40 per cent of them are overseas Chinese students returning amid rising infections abroad.
"We understand some overseas students are eager to come home...But under the current circumstances, by staying put, they can avoid being cross-infected in the hurried journey home or getting stuck mid-journey when the countries they transit in tighten border controls," Mr Luo said.
Fearing a new wave of infections from imported cases, authorities have ramped up quarantine and screening measures in other major cities including Beijing, where any travellers arriving from overseas must submit to centralised quarantine.
The number of new daily cases remain down sharply from the height of the outbreak in the country in February, allowing Beijing to push for restarting economic activity in the world’s second biggest economy.
Hubei province, home to some 60 million people, reported no new cases on Wednesday and opened its borders.
Public transport restarted and residents in the city of Xianning strolled the streets wearing masks.
The lockdown of Hubei’s capital Wuhan, where the virus first appeared late last year, will be lifted on April 8, a milestone in China’s war against the epidemic as Beijing shifts its focus towards stemming imported cases and rebooting the economy.
The fatality rate in Wuhan stood at about 5 per cent, said Dr Qiu Haibo, a medical expert on a panel led by the central government, according to the official People’s Daily on Thursday.