Hubei province, China has reported no new domestic coronavirus cases for the first time since late December when the outbreak began in the city of Wuhan.
This development marks a turning point in the evolving global pandemic that has infected about 81,000 Chinese and has wrought devastating social and economic repercussions to the world’s second-largest economy. Experts say a period of 14 consecutive days of no new cases is required in order to consider the outbreak over.
Although 60 million citizens of Hubei are largely still under mass quarantine, people in China are resuming work and social activities.
China’s measures to lockdown Wuhan and surrounding areas likely reduced overseas transmission of the virus by almost 80%.
Ben Cowling, a professor at Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health says, “It’s very clear that the actions taken in China have almost brought to an end their first wave of infections.”
“The question is what will happen if there’s a second wave, because the kind of measures that China has implemented are not necessarily sustainable in the long term.”
Experts fear loosening of quarantine protocol practically guarantees a second wave of infections due to the contagious nature of the pathogen and how difficult it is to contain as people travel internationally. According to the country’s health ministry, the 34 new cases confirmed Thursday were all detected in people traveling to China from abroad.
To continue to protect its borders, China has instated 14-day quarantines for those entering the country from overseas.
The coronavirus has infected over 211,000 and killed 8,700 people globally. In China, 70,420 people have been released from hospitals and 7,263 are being treated.