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China virus cases fall, but more imported from abroad

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Medical staff seal a vent at a ward used to be an isolation ward for patients infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus at a hospital in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on March 12, 2020. – The hospital prepares to turn a part of the isolation ward back to public ward as patients infected by the virus reduced. The number of fresh infections at the epicentre of China’s coronavirus epidemic dropped to a new low on March 12 but the country imported more cases from abroad. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT

The number of fresh infections at the epicentre of China’s coronavirus epidemic dropped to a new low on Thursday but the country imported more cases from abroad.

Another 11 people died nationwide, the lowest daily increase since late January, bringing the toll in China to 3,169 deaths, according to the National Health Commission.

There were only eight new cases in Wuhan, the city where the virus first emerged in December before growing into a national crisis and a pandemic.

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It is the first time that new cases in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, have fallen to single-digits since figures started to be reported in January.

“The peak of the epidemic in China has passed,” National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said at a regular briefing.

“The number of new cases continues to decline and the spread of the epidemic has generally remained at a low level.”

With cases falling dramatically in recent days, authorities this week began to loosen some restrictions on Hubei’s 56 million people, who have been under quarantine since late January.

Healthy people living in low-risk areas of the province can now travel within Hubei. While Wuhan is not included, some of the city’s companies were told they could resume work.

‘Basically curbed’
Elsewhere in the country, only one non-imported case was recorded, but as virus hotspots emerge overseas China fears infected people arriving from abroad could undermine its progress.

On Thursday there were six more imported cases reported, bringing the total from overseas to 85, health officials said.

Beijing has ordered a 14-day quarantine for everyone arriving in the city from any country.

Travellers flying into Beijing Capital International Airport from high-risk countries are now handled separately from other passengers.

A total of 80,793 people have now been diagnosed with the infection in China.

President Xi Jinping said this week during his first visit to Wuhan since the crisis erupted that the spread of the disease has been “basically curbed” in the country.

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