Wuhan to reopen April 8, Europe’s Covid-19 situation worsens

BEIJING, 25 March 2020:

China yesterday announced it is set to lift restrictions on April 8 in Wuhan, the capital of the central Hubei province where the Covid-19 originated, as the number of fresh cases have dwindled in the region – although the country has registered a spike in imported cases through travellers arriving from global hotspots.

The rest of the cities in the Hubei province are lifting restrictions on operation of public transportation today onwards, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Municipal authorities said after April 8, Wuhan residents will be able to leave the city if they get a QR code permit implying that person has not been in contact with any infected individual or suspected cases.

Apart from a driver, a safety supervisor was also on each bus, whose duty was to make sure all passengers are healthy as their health code shows before boarding.

Wuhan, the once hardest-hit city in central China’s Hubei Province during the Covid-19 outbreak, resumed a total of 117 bus routes starting today, around 30% of the city’s total bus transport capacity, the municipal transport bureau said. From Saturday, six metro lines are expected to reopen to the public.

Passengers must wear masks, register with their names and scan a QR code, and take a temperature check before taking buses and subways. To minimise infection risk, people who are vulnerable to the virus including those aged above 65 are not encouraged to take public transportation.

According to the latest figures released, 2,524 people have died in Wuhan by the disease while the death toll in the Hubei province has touched 3,160. Total confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Wuhan and Hubei remained at 50,006 and 67,801 as of yesterday. Hubei saw three deaths, two of which were in Wuhan.

The central Chinese province also registered zero increase in new confirmed cases yesterday. No new suspected cases were reported yesterday as well.

The local government had already announced earlier they would take progressive measures to lift the restrictions imposed in the city as it did not report new cases of Covid-19 for a stretch of five days until March 22.

Meanwhile Beijing was set to bring in new control and prevention measures such as mandatory nucleic acid test, aiming to contain the possibility of a fresh wave of infections due to rising number of cases among people arriving from overseas.

The measures were announced yesterday after the health authorities in the capital detected 31 of the 74 fresh imported cases in the country on Monday, nearly triple than the day before, when 10 such patients had been found.

Beijing also accounted for one of the four locally transmitted cases nationwide yesterday, related to a person who had come in contact with an infected individual diagnosed as an imported case, local media reported.

Although the Chinese authorities have not announced a closure of borders, they have urged travellers to think twice before travelling to Beijing, where anyone who wishes to enter the city will have to pay for a mandatory 14 day quarantine at a hotel.

The new measures are added to existing ones including the diversion of Beijing bound international flights to other cities where the passengers will undergo mandatory testing and the subsequent analysis would determine whether they could continue their travel into the capital or would remain in quarantine.

The total number of affected individuals in Beijing since the pandemic began stands at 554 – with eight deaths – while 81,171 have been infected throughout the country including 3,277 deaths.

At least 72,703 people have been discharged after treatment, bringing down the number of active cases under 5,000, with 1,573 reported to be in a critical condition, including 1,527 in Wuhan.

The government has said now its priority was to defend the country against importing the disease from other countries with 427 such cases reported so far.

On March 12, China had declared the peak of the new coronavirus epidemic had passed in the country, and subsequently the cases imported from abroad have dominated the statistics.

The coronavirus continued to sweep across Europe, with the combined number of confirmed cases on the continent exceeding 200,000 as of yesterday evening – accounting for half of known cases worldwide.

Globally, the number of coronavirus cases crossed the 400,000 mark and the deaths globally were 17,454, according to US-based Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the Covid-19 spread in real-time.

In just five days, Europe’s number of confirmed cases jumped from 100,000 to 200,000. The four hardest-hit European countries remained the same – Italy, Spain, Germany and France – with their total cases now topping 150,000 in combination.

In Italy, the numbers of both new cases and deaths rebounded yesterday. At a daily routine press conference, Civil Protection Department chief Angelo Borrelli said Italy reported 5,249 new cases of coronavirus and 743 new deaths in the last 24 hours.

Italy’s number of new cases rebounded from 4,789 on Monday, reversing a day-to-day decline in new cases recorded over the previous five days.

The number of new deaths also rebounded from 602 deaths on Monday and 650 deaths on Sunday. It was the second highest daily toll only after Saturday’s 793 since the epidemic broke out in northern Italy on Feb 21.

The Covid-19 disease had claimed 6,820 lives as of yesterday evening in Italy, a nation that has lost more lives than any other country to the pandemic.

The cumulative number of coronavirus cases in Italy reached 69,176, the most outside China, and 54,030 people are currently positive for the coronavirus, according to official data.

Despite the disappointment, the World Health Organisation yesterday’s update on the latest situation on the Covid-19 outbreak said there was a glimmer of hope in Italy, as there were fewer new cases than in the previous several days.

However, the WHO said it was still far too early to claim the tide had turned, and the situation there needed to be carefully observed in the coming days.

Spain has the second highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe, only after Italy. The number of Covid-19 cases in Spain had risen to 39,373 yesterday, including 5,400 health workers, while that of deaths rose to 2,696 in a 24-hour span.

In neighbouring France, 240 more Covid-19 patients died in the last 24 hours, bringing the country’s death toll to 1,100. France became the fourth country to have more than 1,000 fatalities related to Covid-19, after China, Italy and Spain.

France’s number of new cases rose by 2,153 in 24 hours over Monday, taking the country’s total confirmed cases to 22,302, director-general of Health Jerome Salomon said.

A total of 10,176 people are hospitalised, including 2,516 in the intensive care units, said Salomon at a daily briefing. “We are still in a situation that worsens rapidly.”

In Germany, confirmed cases of Covid-19 increased by 4,764 in 24 hours to 27,436 as of yesterday, according to the German government agency for disease control and prevention Robert Koch Institute.

In addition, another 12 European countries have registered more than 1,000 confirmed infection cases — Switzerland, Britain, The Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Ireland, and Luxembourg.

– EFE, Bernama