World

China relaxes curbs on Wuhan but new coronavirus cases double

BEIJING: As China relaxed restrictions on former epicentre Wuhan, new coronavirus cases doubled in 24 hours as the number of infected overseas travellers surged.

New asymptomatic infections also more than quadrupled.

New confirmed cases rose to 62 on Tuesday from 32 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said, the highest since March 25. New imported infections accounted for 59 of the cases.

The number of new asymptomatic cases more than quadrupled to 137, the health authority said yesterday, with incoming travellers accounting for 102.

Chinese authorities do not count asymptomatic cases as part of its tally of confirmed coronavirus infections until patients show symptoms such as a fever or a cough.

The rise in new cases came as curbs on the central city of Wuhan, in lockdown since January, were lifted. The capital of Hubei province saw just two new confirmed infections in the past 15 days.

China sealed off the city of 11 million people to stop the spread of the flu-like virus to other parts of the country.

Over 50,000 people in Wuhan caught the virus, and more than 2,500 of them died, according to official figures.

Voicing joy and excitement from behind face masks, tens of thousands of people fled the city after the 76-day travel ban was lifted on the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic first emerged.

Previously quiet train and bus stations bustled as an exodus began, with some passengers wearing hazmat suits.

Ms Hao Mei, a single parent from the nearby city of Enshi, said her two children had been home alone since she got stuck in Wuhan, where she works in a school kitchen.

"You have no idea! I was already up around 4am. I felt so good. My kids are so excited. Mum is finally coming home," the 39-year-old said as she waited to board a train.

"At the start of the lockdown, I cried every night. I was really miserable, because my little girl is still young, she's only 10."

Up to 55,000 people were expected to leave Wuhan yesterday just by train, according to government estimates.

Buses and cars were also on roads out of the city yesterday morning, after barricades on its outskirts were dismantled with the ban on outbound travel being lifted at midnight. - REUTERS, AFP

WORLD