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China eases curbs as coronavirus infections retreat, imported cases tick up

More places in China lowered emergency response levels to the coronavirus epidemic and relaxed travel restrictions a day after President Xi Jinping visited the epicenter of the outbreak, signaling authorities were turning the tide. 

Total infections in mainland China stood at 80,778 with 24 new cases by Tuesday, while 22 more deaths took the toll to 3,158, the National Health Commission said on Wednesday.

All the latest deaths occurred in Wuhan, the central city which was visited by Xi for the first time on Tuesday since the outbreak began there in December. Home to 11 million people, the provincial capital of Hubei province was placed in lockdown in late January. 

The most encouraging trend to be taken from the latest infection figures, was lower rate of transmission within communities in China as 10 of Tuesday’s 24 new cases involved people traveling from abroad.

Currently, just 79 of overall cases in China have come from abroad, but as that number increases, authorities are turning their focus on how to deal with that risk. 

The capital of Beijing saw six new cases on Tuesday involving individuals who traveled from Italy and the United States, while Shanghai had two imported infections, Shandong province one and Gansu province one.

Taiwan too has begun reporting an uptick in imported cases. The government said on Wednesday the island’s 48th case was a woman in her 30s who had returned from holiday in Britain and had most likely been infected while overseas. 

New infections in Hubei continued to stabilize, with new cases declining for the sixth day. All 13 new cases in Hubei were recorded in Wuhan.

Amid slowing domestic infections, a few cities in Hubei have started to ease curbs on movement of people and goods.

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On Wednesday, Japanese automaker Nissan said it planned to partially resume production at two Chinese plants, one of them in Hubei.

The city of Qianjiang in Hubei bucked the trend, however, with authorities saying they would retain strict transport bans, revoking a previous policy of removing traffic checkpoints and resuming public transport. 

Elsewhere, however, Hunan province and the municipality of Chongqing lowered their emergency response level, while cities around Shandong province resumed inter-city and rural passenger transportation routes, the official Xinhua news agency reported. 

Shandong, however, stopped short of resuming routes to Beijing and Hubei province.

So far about 24 of China’s municipalities, regions and provinces have so far cut their emergency response level from the highest tier previously.

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