Earlier today, China’s National Health Commission reported that no new domestically transmitted cases of the novel coronavirus had occurred in the country on Wednesday, March 18. This marks the first time this figure has been zero in China since the epidemic began back in December. However, the threat of infection may not be over for the country, as 34 new cases among people recently returned to China were also reported.
Outside of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, in the Hubei province of China, no new indigenous confirmed cases had been reported for 13 consecutive days. The increase in case numbers in the city of Wuhan had remained in single figures for the last week, until finally dropping to zero yesterday. This meant that on March 18, across all of the Chinese mainland, the increase in domestic transmissions had been reduced to zero.
These figures are a stark contrast to the ones seen a month ago, where several thousand new cases were being confirmed every day. In Huanggang, a neighboring city of Wuhan, which at one point had the second-highest number of confirmed cases, further advances had been made as yesterday it reportedly discharged its last two COVID-19 patients.
Since the outbreak began at the end of December last year, the National Health Commission in China says it had received 80,928 reports of confirmed cases including 3,245 deaths, and 70,420 patients cured and discharged from hospital.
For several cities in China that have been quarantined since January 23, news of the reduced cases of domestic transmission has led to a partial lift of the mass quarantine, allowing residents in lower-risk areas to leave the Hubei province for work, according to Bloomberg.
As these measures are lifted, experts are warning that the disease could in fact have a second wave. Having infected less than 1 percent of the population in its first wave, most people in China are still susceptible to the disease.
A more immediate threat for a second wave in China comes from “imported cases.” Having seen 34 new imported cases on Wednesday, the Chinese mainland has reported a total of 189 confirmed cases brought from overseas.
“It’s going to keep burning. The virus is still out there,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told Bloomberg. “We expect it to leak back in from the rest of the world.”