Beijing: Last month, Wuhan was overwhelmed with thousands of new cases of coronavirus each day. But in a dramatic development that underscores just how much the outbreak has pivoted toward Europe and the United States, Chinese authorities said Thursday that the city and it's surrounding province had no new cases to report.
The news offered a rare glimmer of hope for the rest of the world as it battles the virus, and perhaps a lesson in the strict measures needed to halt its spread. It came as President Donald Trump likened the fight to “war” and invoked emergency powers that allow him to compel manufacturers to deal with the pandemic.
Wuhan was where the outbreak first took hold and thousands once lay sick or dying in hurriedly constructed hospitals. But Chinese authorities said Thursday that all 34 new cases recorded over the previous day had been imported from abroad.
“Today we have seen the dawn after so many days of hard effort,” said Jiao Yahui, a senior inspector at the National Health Commission.
Still, the virus continued to take its toll elsewhere, both human and economic.
While China did not report any new cases in Wuhan or Hubei province it did record eight additional deaths.
Treatment methods working well
Jiao said the “double-zero” increase, which followed several days of improving numbers, meant their control and medical treatment methods were working well.
Wuhan has been under a strict lockdown since January. Officials are moving to loosen travel restrictions, but only inside the surrounding province of Hubei where most checkpoints will be taken down. Wuhan remains cut-off, with only those with special permission allowed to travel in or out.
The lockdown will be lifted there only if no additional cases are reported for two consecutive weeks, which may happen next month, Li Lanjuan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, was quoted as saying.
The virus has infected more than 218,000 people worldwide and killed over 8,800, mostly in China, Italy and Iran. The United Nations warned that the crisis could lead to the loss of nearly 25 million jobs around the world.
More than 84,000 people overall have recovered from the virus, which causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough in most cases. Severe illness is more likely in the elderly and those with existing health problems.
Though China still has the largest number of cases, most of its patients have recovered. China even sent medical supplies to hard-hit France, returning a favor done by the French weeks ago.
But in a grim illustration of the pandemic's shift, deaths in Italy were nearing China's toll. Italy had more than 2,900 dead after a record one-day total of 475. China's overall toll was around 3,200.