China Reports No New COVID-19 Cases For Ist Time Since Outbreak

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Beijing – For the first time since the coronavirus outbreak started, Chi­na has reported no new domestic transmissions of Covid-19, a major milestone in the country’s fight against the pandemic.

China’s national health com­mission said on Thursday there were 34 new cases, but all were re­cent overseas arrivals. In Hubei, the Chinese province where the out­break began, there were no new cas­es of any kind during Wednesday.

On Wednesday officials in Hu­bei’s Wuhan city, where the pan­demic began late last year, loosened restrictions further, allowing people in residential compounds deemed “virus free” to leave their homes to conduct individual “personal activi­ties” in staggered groups within the grounds, at certain times of the day. In areas that have been without in­fections for seven consecutive days, residents can go out freely as long as they do not gather in groups. Of­ficials said 5,600 residential areas, or 78% of the residential areas in the city, are virus-free.

While the Asian nations that were first affected appeared to have come through the worst of it, there are now concerns about a second wave of infections, driven by peo­ple returning from overseas.

The good news from China came as Australia and New Zea­land both announced they would close their borders to all non-resi­dents and non-citizens. Prime Min­ister Scott Morrison said Austra­lia’s borders would shut from 9pm on Friday, while his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern said the move would happen on Thurs­day evening.

Morrison said the decision had been reached because about 80% of Australia’s cases were the result of someone either contracting the vi­rus overseas or being in direct con­tact with someone who had.

Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg, speaking after the Reserve bank cuts its interest rate again, to 0.25%, said: “Extraordi­nary times call for extraordinary measures.”

Hours earlier, the island state of Tasmania announced a state of emergency and effectively closed it­self off from the rest of the country.

The country’s flagship airline Qantas also said it would suspend all international flights from the end of the month and would be standing down two thirds of its 30,000-strong workforce without pay. The government also put re­strictions on purchases of over-the-counter medicine, as people contin­ued to buy multiple items despite advice and instructions not to un­necessarily hoard.

Despite continued criticism of China for its initial suppression of information and slow response to the virus, Beijing is now setting itself up as a leader in tackling it, offering as­sistance to other affected nations.

In its daily briefing on Thurs­day, China’s national health com­mission said there were no new do­mestic cases in the country. Once there have been no new cases for 14 days, the lockdown on Wuhan may lift, the China Daily reported.

There were eight more deaths – all in Hubei – bringing the coun­try’s total to 3,245, according to the commission. It said that of the more than 81,000 cases reported in China since the outbreak began, just 7,263 remained ill.

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