The millions of Chinese residents on lockdown in Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged before it spread across the globe, will soon be able to resume travel after months of tight restrictions imposed in an effort to curb the outbreak.
Chinese authorities on Tuesday announced citizens with a clean bill of health will be allowed to leave the city starting on April 8, months after the virus emptied streets and forced residents inside their homes. Similar measures are also slated to be lifted at midnight on Wednesday for other cities in the Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital.
People were banned from both entering and leaving the city of Wuhan starting on Jan. 23 — a surprise emergency order that was quickly extended to cover all 58 million residents across the province. Train services and flights were canceled and schools were closed down indefinitely, leaving the region, typically bubbling with activity for the Chinese New Year, uncharacteristically quiet.
The announcement from Chinese authorities on Tuesday is the latest sign that the tight restrictions have been a factor in the successful slowing of the virus. In Hubei, new cases have dropped to zero for five consecutive days — down from the thousands of daily new cases coming in at the epidemic’s peak in February.
The province on Tuesday also announced just one new case in Wuhan in a doctor at Hubei General Hospital.
China’s National Health Commission additionally reported 78 new coronavirus cases, among which 74 were imported. The number highlights officials’ need to shift focus to those bringing in the virus from overseas.
Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities have ordered mandatory 14-day quarantines for all returnees as part of further efforts to contain the sickness.
Since the virus first emerged in late December, it has killed more than 2,500 people in the city Wuhan. The grim figure makes up nearly 80% of the nationwide total, which currently stands at more than 3,200.
In China alone, there have been more than 81,000 cases of the potentially deadly disease with more than 73,000 recovered so far.
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The spread of the novel coronavirus has also prompted similar lockdowns in other nations also hoping to curb the pandemic, which has killed 17,000 people all over the world. Countries like the United States and Italy have issued stay-at-home orders and shut down cities indefinitely as they struggle to contain the disease.
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 392,000 people.
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