China to lift lockdown on Hubei province, including Wuhan

China’s central Hubei province, where the deadly coronavirus first emerged late last year, is to lift travel curbs after two months under lockdown, officials announced. The announcement marks a significant milestone in its battle against the deadly outbreak, an indication that soon life will be back to normalcy in the Chinese region hardest hit.

The easing of travel restrictions follows a significant reduction in new infections in Hubei, with new cases dropping to zero for five consecutive days from March 19 — down from thousands of daily new cases at the height of the epidemic in February. On Tuesday, the province reported one new case in Wuhan, a doctor at the Hubei General Hospital.

Healthy residents will now be allowed to leave the province from midnight Tuesday, while Wuhan, the initial epicentre of the outbreak, will lift restrictions from April 8. But while the tough restrictions have brought local virus transmissions under control, there are now fears of a second wave of infections from outside the country.

China reported 78 new cases of the virus Tuesday – the vast majority brought in from overseas. Global markets have experienced some of their biggest falls in decades as the pandemic spreads worldwide, but Asian equities and oil received a welcome boost after the US Federal Reserve unleashed major new stimulus.

The Guardian reported that the lock-down was the largest in human history, and drew skepticism and praise from health bodies. Now, as other countries across the world deal with their own massive outbreaks, many governments have announced lockdowns of their own. On Tuesday, around one fifth of the world’s population was under some kind of order to stay inside their home.

Senior International Olympic Committee official Dick Pound also indicated that a postponement of this year’s Tokyo Olympics is now inevitable, a day after Canada pulled out of the Games.

The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee joined a growing chorus of sports bodies voicing support for a delay to the Games starting July 24, after a survey showed a majority of American athletes backed a postponement.

Additional information from AFP

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