China reports zero locally transmitted coronavirus cases outside Hubei

BEIJING (Reuters) – Mainland China, outside Hubei province the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, reported no new locally transmitted cases on Sunday for the second straight day, as authorities remained on alert for infections arriving from abroad.

China had 40 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Sunday, the National Health Commission said on Monday, down from 44 cases a day earlier, and the lowest number since the health authority started publishing nationwide data on Jan. 20.

Of the new cases on Sunday, 36 were new infections in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei, while the remaining four in Gansu province were imported from Iran.

The total number of imported cases hit 67, including the four Gansu cases.

The new cases on Sunday bring the total accumulated number of confirmed cases in mainland China to 80,735.

While the domestic spread of the virus has significantly slowed in recent days, authorities continue to be mindful of risks stemming from people – foreigners and Chinese nationals – traveling back to China from affected regions.

Shanghai stepped up airport screening over the weekend as imported coronavirus infections from countries such as Italy and Iran emerged as the biggest source of imported cases in China.

China is also conscious of the tens of millions of migrant workers returning to offices, malls and factories and the potential transmission risks.

As of the end of Sunday, 58,600 patients had been discharged from Chinese hospitals. Authorities are aware of the potential for re-infection, and have told recently recovered patients to go into quarantine for 14 days after being discharged.

On Saturday, a small hotel used to quarantine people under observation in Fujian province collapsed, killing 10.

Of the 71 people inside the hotel in Quangzhou city at the time of the collapse, 58 had been under quarantine, the Quangzhou city government said.

The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China reached 3,119 as of the end of Sunday, up 22 from the previous day.

Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak, reported 21 new deaths. In Wuhan, 18 people died.

Total deaths outside of mainland China have surpassed 500, with the number of fatalities dominated by Italy and Iran. Cases continue to rise in other countries, including the United States.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak had been hindered by what he called imperfect data from China, adding that it had been frustrating getting information from the ruling Communist Party.

In response, state-controlled China Daily wrote in an editorial on Monday that the rapid rise in the number of U.S. cases was because the U.S. administration had not reacted in a timely manner to the information supplied by China.

“It is no surprise to hear such a groundless statement from the top U.S. diplomat, as he has never ceased wagging his tongue with criticism of China since the outbreak began,” according to the editorial.

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