Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic, on Tuesday, the first time he has done so since the start of the epidemic, and a sign that Beijing believes its efforts to control are at a crossroads, as new cases plummet.
Its arrival in the city, where the virus is said to have taken root for the first time at the end of last year, comes after its spread in mainland China slowed down sharply last week and attention turned to prevention of infections imported from overseas hot spots such as Iran. , Italy and South Korea.
The news of the visit gave a boost to Chinese stocks, the benchmark rising in positive territory after falling 1% in morning trade.
“It is obvious that Xi could not have visited Wuhan earlier, because the risk of him contracting the virus there was initially too high,” Zhang Ming, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing, told Reuters.
“He is here now to harvest the crop. His presence means that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may soon declare victory against the virus,” said Zhang.
China has been criticized at home and around the world for its rapid response to the epidemic, suppressing information and minimizing its risks, but its draconian control efforts, including the foreclosure of Wuhan and Hubei Province where it originated, were effective in curbing the spread.
Hubei Province, of which Wuhan is the capital, announced Tuesday that it will introduce a “health code” system to allow people in areas of medium and low risk to contract coronavirus to begin travel.
During his trip to Wuhan, Xi “will visit medical personnel, military officers and soldiers, community workers, police officers, officials and volunteers who fought the epidemic on the front line, as well as to patients and residents during the inspection, “said state news agency Xinhua.
New cases fall
Mainland China experienced 19 new coronavirus infections on Monday, the National Health Commission announced Tuesday, up from 40 the previous day. It also marked the third consecutive day of the absence of new cases of locally transmitted coronavirus outside of Hubei.
Of the new cases, 17 were in Wuhan, while one in Beijing and another in Guangdong due to the arrival of people from abroad, according to health officials.
This brings the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China to 80,754 to date.
However, Chinese authorities have stepped up warnings of the risks to foreigners and Chinese nationals traveling to China from viral hotspots abroad such as Iran and Italy.
The only case in Beijing on Monday was from a traveler from Great Britain, and the one in Guangdong was a case imported from Spain. On Monday, there were 69 imported cases.
Since the epidemic, 59,897 patients have been discharged from hospitals in China. Recently discharged patients should be quarantined for 14 days.
In Wuhan, 12 of 14 temporary hospitals dedicated to treating coronavirus patients closed, the other two expected to close on Tuesday.
On Saturday, a small hotel used to quarantine people under observation in southern Fujian province collapsed, killing 20 people, while 10 had not yet been rescued.
Of the 71 people inside the hotel in Quanzhou City at the time of the collapse, 58 were in quarantine, said the Quanzhou City government.
At the end of Monday, the overall death toll from the coronavirus epidemic in China reached 3,136, 17 more than the previous day.
Hubei has reported 17 new deaths, all in Wuhan.
Xi, who was mostly absent from early Chinese media coverage of the crisis, has become more visible in recent weeks.
The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the official People’s Daily, detailed on Tuesday the various instructions and actions that Xi had given and taken between January 7 and March 2 to fight the epidemic.
“Xi personally commands the people’s war against the epidemic. He has paid constant attention to the work of preventing and controlling the epidemic and has given oral or written instructions every day,” the newspaper said.