No new coronavirus cases in Wuhan sends encouragement to world

2020-03-20 Xinhua Editor:Gu Liping

No new infections of the novel coronavirus were reported on Wednesday in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic, marking a notable first in the city's months-long battle with the virus and sending a message of hope to a world grappling with the pandemic.

The Health Commission of Hubei Province, where Wuhan is the capital, said the virus' death toll climbed by eight in the province, but the total confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan and Hubei remained at 50,005 and 67,800 on Wednesday.

No increase was observed in the province's number of suspected cases, which fell to zero on Tuesday, in another indication that large-scale transmissions have been suppressed at the epidemic epicenter after a slew of strict measures.

Medical workers from Yunnan Province wave to bid farewell on the plane at Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, March 18, 2020. (Xinhua/Fei Maohua)

Previously, the central Chinese province had reported single-digit increases of new infections, all of which were from Wuhan, for a week in a row since last Wednesday. A month ago, the figure was several thousand a day.

The province also saw 795 patients discharged from hospital after recovery on Wednesday, reducing its caseload of hospitalized patients to 6,636, including 1,809 in severe condition and 465 in critical condition.

With no new cases in Wuhan, the Chinese mainland on Wednesday reduced the increase in domestic transmissions to zero, according to the National Health Commission. The mainland now faces a greater threat of infections imported from overseas, which jumped by 34 on Wednesday.

"The clearing of new infections in Wuhan came earlier than predicted, but it is still too early to let down our guard," said Zhang Boli, one of the leading experts advising on the epidemic fight in Hubei.

Arduous work still lies ahead as China strengthens its defence against imported cases from abroad, treats thousands of patients still in serious or critical condition and rehabilitates those discharged from hospitals, said Zhang, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

With the strict measures in place, a drastic rebound in new infections is unlikely, said Chen Erzhen, who leads a Shanghai medical team assisting Hubei.

However, Chen noted an alarming fact that there are still patients recently diagnosed at fever clinics, calling for continued epidemiologic investigation.

"Today is a big day for Wuhan, but we can't afford a minute of relaxation," he said. "We are still fighting toward a final victory in Wuhan to be marked by more days of zero increase."

Cured patients on a bus wave goodbye to medical workers in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, March 8, 2020. (Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu)

In a leadership meeting on Wednesday, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said the positive trend in preventing and controlling the epidemic has been constantly consolidated and expanded.

He stressed efforts to protect the hard-won positive trend as new situations and problems, especially the overseas spread of the virus and its negative impacts on the world economy, brought new challenges.

The novel coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan in December as a new pathogen facing mankind. Before its traits were fully understood, the virus had cut a swath of infections among Wuhan's unsuspecting public, before jumping from the transportation hub to other parts of China via the largest seasonal human migration ahead of the Spring Festival.

Xi has described the COVID-19 outbreak as the most difficult to contain since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 and "a big test" for the country.

Medical experts said the virus is more contagious, though less deadly, than the SARS virus that belongs to the same coronavirus family. Globally, the SARS virus infected 8,422 people and killed 919 between 2002 and 2003.

"We still have insufficient knowledge of the novel coronavirus. What we already know is it's a very cunning virus with a long incubation period," said Wang Daowen, a cardiologist at Tongji Hospital in Wuhan.

"We still found the virus from the anus, if not from the lungs, of one patient after he was hospitalized for 50 days," said Wang, who was among the first medical experts joining the treatment of COVID-19. "Usually, a virus should vanish from one's body in two weeks."

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