March 24, 2020 / 8:14 AM / in 4 days

UPDATE 1-China health commission says virus transmission risks remain

(Adds detail from briefing)

BEIJING/SHANGHAI, March 24 (Reuters) - China cannot afford to let its guard down when it comes to combating the coronavirus, with the country still at risk from sporadic infections as well as those from overseas, a health official said on Tuesday.

The virus epicentre of Hubei said on Tuesday that it would relax restrictions on passengers leaving the province starting from Wednesday, with the capital Wuhan set to follow in April.

The move came even though the number of new infections on the Chinese mainland doubled on Monday, driven by an increase in cases travelling into the country from overseas.

Mi Feng, spokesman with the National Health Commission, told a press briefing that “prevention and control work could still not be relaxed”.

At the same briefing, Wang Guiqiang, director of the infectious disease department at the Beijing First Hospital, said initial appraisals of the coronavirus showed that its infectious period was longer than SARS and influenza.

China does not include asymptomatic or presymptomatic patients in its overall case list, prompting concerns on social media that potentially infectious people might cause new outbreaks once travel restrictions are eased.

However, Wu Zunyou of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention told the briefing that there was no risk they would become a new source of transmission for the virus, saying that they have also been isolated. (Reporting by Gao Liangping and David Stanway; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Giles Elgood)

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