Lockdown on virus-hit Hubei province eased as China reports no new cases

China lifted severe restrictions on the province at the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic on Wednesday after several months of foreclosure, with no new domestic cases reported.

But there have been 47 other infections imported from overseas, said the National Health Commission, as the number of cases brought into the country continued to increase.

A total of 474 imported infections have been diagnosed in China – mostly Chinese nationals returning home, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Four other people are dead, health officials said three in central Hubei province on Wednesday, where the virus first appeared late last year.

China announced on Tuesday that the lockdown would be lifted on more than 50 million people in Hubei, with residents allowed to leave if they are in good health, with the opening of certain airports and stations.

The city of Wuhan – the initial epicenter of the epidemic – will allow residents to leave from April 8.

Hubei ordered the closure in January, but has gradually relaxed the rules and allowed people to move around the province and return to work in recent days.

However, the schools remain closed.

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

New cases have slowed considerably in the past month.

But as countries struggle globally to contain the pandemic, the increase in the number of cases imported to China is fueling anxiety over a possible second wave of infections, just as the country appears to be in control of its epidemic.

Many cities have strict rules to quarantine arrivals, and all international flights to Beijing are diverted to other urban centers where passengers are screened for the virus.

(AFP)