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China Sets Date for Ending Wuhan Lockdown as Coronavirus Threat Recedes

Medical workers from north China's Inner
CHINE NOUVELLE/SIPA/Shutterstock

Chinese authorities say they will begin to ease the travel restrictions in Hubei Province, imposed in January to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus, from Wednesday.

People in Wuhan, the original epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak, will have to wait two more weeks before they can leave the city.

The easing of the two-month, province-wide lockdown was announced in a notice on Tuesday by Hubei Health Commission. It follows five days without new confirmed cases of coronavirus being announced in Wuhan. Among the existing cases, there were nine deaths on Monday.

Nationwide, China revealed 78 new confirmed cases of the virus on Monday. Of the new cases, 74 were infections imported by travelers and Chinese citizens returning home from other parts of the world.

A similar pattern of imported cases outnumbering local incidences is now being observed in Hong Kong and Singapore, both of which were among the earliest places to be hit by infectious cases that spread out from Wuhan and Hubei.

At a moment when the harsh lockdown and containment measures in China appear finally to have caused a slowdown in the spread of the disease, much of the rest of the world is still at an earlier stage of contagion, and seeing an acceleration of cases. Stay-at-home orders have been issued in parts of the U.S., across the U.K and in Germany.

Wuhan residents considered healthy will be allowed to move around the city and take the bus or metro from Wednesday. But they will have to carry a QR code, which links to the individual’s confirmed health status. As the number of active cases has diminished, the city has already closed some of the new hospitals it has built. Local sources say that at least three airports in Hubei, but not Wuhan, are to return to operations on Wednesday.

Other parts of China are exhibiting a mixed pattern of behavior. Cinemas have begun to reopen in the remote Xinjiang and Sichuan Provinces, far from Hubei and less exposed to international travel. But Beijing, where 31 of Monday’s new cases were discovered, announced tougher prevention measures. Everyone entering the city will be subject to centralized quarantine and health checks. Badaling, the section of The Great Wall closest to Beijing is expected to reopen to visitors — subject to their being able to producer the required QR code.

In total, China has recorded more than 81,000 cases of the novel coronavirus. The death toll has reached 3,277.