March 23, 2020 / 12:26 AM / 9 days ago

China sees drop in new coronavirus cases; all of them imported

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Mainland China on Monday reported a drop in its daily tally of new coronavirus cases, reversing four straight days of increases, as the capital, Beijing, ramped up measures to contain the number of infections arriving from abroad.

Passengers wearing face masks are seen at a subway station after the city's emergency alert level for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was downgraded, in Shanghai, China March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

China had 39 new confirmed cases on Sunday, the National Health Commission said, down from 46 a day earlier. All the new ones involved travelers arriving from abroad, many of them Chinese students returning home.

Beijing stepped up measures to contain imported infections, diverting all arriving international flights from Monday to other cities, including Shanghai and as far west as Xian, where passengers will undergo virus screening.

Foreigners who miss international connections as a result of the measure would have to leave China, an immigration official said at the health commission’s daily briefing, adding that foreign visitors should “think carefully” before choosing Beijing as a transit point.

Beijing reported 10 new imported cases, the National Health Commission said, down from 13 a day earlier. City authorities said cases came from Spain, Britain, France, the United States and Pakistan. Infections from abroad in Beijing hit an all-time daily high of 21 on March 18.

Shanghai and Guangzhou have also said all arriving international passengers will be tested to screen for the coronavirus, expanding a program that previously only applied to those coming from heavily affected countries.

The coastal province of Zhejiang, near Shanghai, will also put all arrivals from overseas in centralized quarantine facilities for 14 days, media reported. Zhejiang on Monday lowered its emergency response level from 2 to 3, the lowest level, reflecting easing concern about the virus’ spread.

Shanghai, which reported 10 new cases on Sunday, down from a record 14 a day earlier, lowered its emergency response level to level 2 from level 1.

Guangdong province saw seven new imported infections, Fujian had four and Jiangsu had two. Hebei, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Shandong and Sichuan each saw just one case, bringing the total number of imported cases in China to 314.

Amid the growing threat posed by imported infections, the Canton Fair, China’s oldest and biggest trade fair, will be postponed, Ma Hua, deputy director general of Guangdong’s commerce department, told a press conference on Monday. The event was due to begin on April 15 in Guangzhou.

In Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, authorities have eased tough lockdown measures as the city saw no new infections for the fifth day.

Downtown Wuhan remains the only high-risk area in Hubei province, with other cities and counties classified as low-risk.

Wuhan went into a virtual lockdown on Jan. 23 to contain the spread of the virus.

According to authorities on Sunday, people can enter the city if they are certified healthy and have no fever.

Hubei residents who are in Wuhan can apply to leave but have to be tested for the virus. There has been no indication Wuhan residents can leave the city for non-essential reasons.

As of Sunday, the total number of cases in mainland China stood at 81,093. The death toll rose to 3,270, up nine from the previous day.

Reporting by Ryan Woo, Lusha Zhang, Engen Tham, Jing Wang, Andrew Galbraith and Tom Daly; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel, Toby Chopra

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