China has reported that there have been zero new local coronavirus cases for the first time since the outbreak began, with China officials saying they have “seen the dawn”.
Figures from Wednesday reveal that there have been no new cases at all in Wuhan or the wider Hubei province, which is where the virus COVID-19 is now believed to have been the place it was first transmitted amongst humans.
However, authorities warn that the risk is not over and there have been 34 cases – all of which have been imported from abroad – were reported within over provinces. This includes 21 cases in Beijing and nine in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangdong.
According to the National Health Commission, eight new deaths were reported on Wednesday. This brings the country to a total of 80,928 cases and 3,245 deaths.
Regardless, the lack of new local transmissions in Hubei marks for a major turning point in the global fight to contain the potentially deadly disease.
Senior Inspector Jiao Yahui at the National Health Commission stated: “Today we have seen the dawn after so many days of hard effort.”
An official from Hubei’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Li Yang, told a news conference that the threat of COVID-19 has not been eliminated and there are still risks of infection occurring, at both community and clinical levels.
Since January, Wuhan has been under a strict lockdown and is still cut off from. Only those with special permission are allowed to travel in and out.
However, officials are now loosening travel restrictions but this is only in the surrounding province of Hubei, where most checkpoints will now be taken down.
The lockdown in Wuhan will only be lifted if there are no new additional cases reported for two consecutive weeks. A member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, Li Lanjuan, told local media that this could be as early as next month.
Now, the attention is being drawn from stopping local spread to preventing new cases from arriving abroad. Currently, China is assisting the government in Europe by sending over medical supplies to France. This is returning the favour done by Paris only a couple of weeks ago.
The Chinese aviation authority said they were concerned by the 21 new cases arriving in Beijing – which is a record number – and said that it had appointed 12 airport companies to assist in diverting international arrivals away from the capital.
This state media report did not enlighten on which cities the traffic would now be diverted to. Yet the measure is being designed to help with effective screening of passengers and isolation of infected travellers.
On Wednesday, there were only three new cases in Japan and the governor of the worst-hit Hokkaido province announced that it was the end of a state emergency.
Naomichi Suzuki told local reports: “From the 20th we move to a new stage to overcome the crisis.”
Mass gatherings are still banned but an expert panel on the virus outbreak has stated that they expect to recommend that some schools start to reopen and sporting events resume.
A member of the panel, Koji Wada, told Reuters: “There are some areas where almost all the patients have been identified in the past two weeks.
“So in those areas, it’s OK to reopen schools, even now.”
Singapore reported on Wednesday that there were 47 new cases but of those, 33 had been imported. This includes 30 returning Singapore residents, which now takes the country’s total to 313.
Many imported cases have travelled to European countries including the UK, Turkey, France, Germany, Austria, Croatia and Switzerland, as well as India, Indonesia, the Philippines and the US.
Meanwhile, South Korea has been widely praised for its handling of the outbreak through its aggressive testing measures. It has now reduced the rate of new infections to double digits within recent days. On Wednesday, this had jumped to 152 new cases. On the peak of its outbreak, the country was reporting upwards of 850 cases a day.