May 1, 2020 / 9:11 AM / a month ago

China's Hubei, where coronavirus began, eases lockdown

FILE PHOTO: Medical workers from a hospital collect swabs from high school teachers for nucleic acid tests at a school, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Yichang, Hubei province, China April 27, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s central province of Hubei, where the novel coronavirus behind the pandemic was first detected, will lower its emergency response level from Saturday in the latest relaxation of lockdowns put in place to contain the virus.

Hubei will lower the level from the highest to the second-highest from May 2, the province’s health commission said in post on its public WeChat account Friday.

Hubei is the last province to lower its provincial emergency response level, a major milestone in China’s fight against the pandemic. The virus is believed to have originated in a wet market in the province’s capital Wuhan in December.

Hubei will also adjust prevention and control measures against the epidemic following the response level downgrade, the official Xinhua news agency quoted Yang Yunyan, vice governor of Hubei, as saying. The Xinhua report did not explain what adjustments would be made.

Beijing on Thursday announced a similar easing of restrictions, saying it would mean removing 14-day quarantine requirements for people arriving from low-risk parts of the country, releasing those currently in quarantine and ending the requirement to wear masks outdoors.

A health official said on April 26 that Wuhan had no remaining coronavirus cases in its hospitals, following a lockdown of the city and province that sealed roads, cancelled trains and planes and left residents unable to move freely for more than two months.

Hubei has reported no new coronavirus cases for 27 days as of the end of April 30.

China’s National Health Commission on Friday reported 12 new coronavirus cases in mainland China for the day earlier, including four domestically transmitted cases.

Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; editing by John Stonestreet and Barbara Lewis

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