For the first time since China reported the world’s first coronavirus outbreak three months ago, the country has reported no new local infections. This is a major milestone in the battle against the virus, The New York Times reports.
At the peak of the coronavirus epidemic in China, thousands of new cases and hundreds of deaths were being announced every single day. Hubei Province, the region at the center of the outbreak, went under an extreme lockdown in late January, affecting over 50 million people. By then, though, the virus had spread to other parts of China as well as overseas. It is now a global pandemic.
On Thursday, China reported no new locally transmitted infections for the first time. Many cities and regions under lockdown are now slowly getting their freedom back. “It’s like the war has ended,” Stefan Kirkeby, an American who was visiting western Hubei at the time of the lockdown, told The New York Times. “We still cannot leave Hubei, but the people’s local freedom has been restored.”
When the outbreak began, the Chinese government quickly built new temporary hospitals to deal with the rising flood of infections. The last two of these temporary hospitals in Wuhan just closed down, thanks to the decrease in cases.
A video of doctors and nurses in Wuhan happily taking off their masks went viral on Twitter. Many of the medical staff working in Wuhan had been sent from other parts of China; they can now go home.
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) March 13, 2020
The fight isn’t over just yet, though. As China gears up to deal with the aftermath of this economically-devastating pandemic, new cases of COVID-19 are still arriving in the country from overseas. Authorities plan to enforce strict quarantine measures on travelers from abroad in an attempt to prevent a second wave of the disease. “A single spark can start a prairie fire,” the state newspaper Chinese Daily said in an editorial, per Reuters.
As of this writing, there are over 244,000 cases of coronavirus across the world. The center of the pandemic has shifted away from China to Europe.