China lifts travel restrictions in Hubei province after months of coronavirus lockdown

AFP Beijing, Beijing, China Mar 25, 2020, 07.38 AM(IST)

This photo taken on March 16, 2020 shows community volunteers distributing foods ordered by residents in Wuhan, China's central Hubei province. China reported on March 17 just one new domestic coronavirus infection but found 20 more cases imported from abroad, threatening to spoil its progress against the disease. Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Millions will be able to move around the region after weeks of stringent measures to stem the spread of Covid-19.

China lifted tough restrictions on the province at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday after a months-long lockdown as the country reported no new domestic cases.

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But there were another 47 imported infections from overseas, the National Health Commission said, as the number of cases brought into the country continued to swell.

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In total, 474 imported infections have been diagnosed in China -- mostly Chinese nationals returning home according to the foreign ministry.

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Four more people died, health officials said Wednesday, three in central Hubei province where the virus first emerged late last year.

China announced Tuesday that the lockdown would be lifted on more than 50 million people in Hubei, with residents now allowed to leave if healthy, with some airports and train stations, opening.

The city of Wuhan -- the initial epicentre of the outbreak -- will allow residents to leave from April 8.

Hubei ordered the shutdown in January but had been gradually easing rules and permitting people to move about within the province and return to work over recent days.

Schools remain closed, however, There have been more than 81,200 cases of COVID-19 in China and 3,281 deaths from the virus.

New cases have slowed dramatically over the last month.

But as nations globally struggle to contain the pandemic, surging numbers of imported cases in China are fuelling anxiety about a possible second wave of infections just as the country seems to be bringing its outbreak under control.

Many cities have brought in tough rules to quarantine arrivals, and all Beijing-bound international flights are being diverted to other urban centres where passengers are screened for the virus.