President Xi Jinping of China paid a visit to Wuhan, the central city where the novel coronavirus was first identified in late 2019, signaling his confidence that the outbreak is under control. This was the Communist leader’s first trip to the epicenter of the flu-like illness named COVID-19 for coronavirus disease 2019.
President Xi announced that the pneumonia-like contagion has been “basically curbed” in Hubei province where Wuhan is located. Xi made an inspection tour of the prevention and control efforts in the province, which has been on lockdown after the central government of the People’s Republic of China imposed a medical quarantine on January 23, 2020.
The presidential tour included Huoshenshan hospital, a temporary facility constructed in 10 days to process the wave of infections. A video link allowed Xi to communicate with patients in the quarantine ward.
After completing his assessment, Xi stated:
“Initial success has been made in stabilizing the situation and turning the tide in Hubei and Wuhan.”
Chinese state media has confirmed that all 14 of the temporary hospitals in China have now been closed. Most cities are reporting no new infections. Factories have announced they are reopening.
The World Health Organization (WHO) called the Chinese intervention to COVID-19 “unprecedented in public health history.” The Wuhan lockdown established the precedent and the template for similar measures in other Chinese cities soon to follow.
On February 2, the city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province began a seven-day lockdown with the restriction that only one person per household could exit once every two days. Most highway exits were closed to traffic.
The president’s optimism is supported by recent health agency reports. On, March 9, China logged only 19 new cases, the lowest number of new cases to date. Other than two people who had traveled from abroad, all the newly infected patients were residing in Wuhan.
China has confirmed 80,754 cases and 3,136 deaths, a very low mortality rate in the world’s largest nation of over 1.4 billion.
According to analysts quoted by the Chinese state media, the top official’s Wuhan visit sends a “strong signal to the entire country and the world that China is ascending out of the darkest moment amid the outbreak.”
The presence of Xi in Hubei province may be a sign that areas in Hubei will be released from lockdown in the near future. Transportation bans will be lifted, at least within the province, and commerce will resume as normal.
In Qinghai province, 144 senior schools and secondary vocational schools reopened on March 9 after closures to prevent the spread of the disease.
Shops and restaurants at the Disneyland Shanghai have reopened while the main theme park remains closed.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, agreed in late February that China was gaining the upper hand in battling the flu-like infection that has the highest fatality rate in people 80 years and above. The chief technologist said that factories in China that make iPhone parts are reopening as the coronavirus runs its course:
“I mean, if you look at the numbers, they’re coming down day by day by day. So I’m very optimistic there.”
China supplies a significant number of iPhone parts and assembles most of them. The annual production slowdown during the Lunar New Year celebrations in January hasn’t picked up the pace due to the quarantines caused by the viral outbreak.
On February 26, for the first time, the number of new COVID-19 cases inside China was lower than those in other countries where the infection has been introduced more recently. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, indicated that outside of China 2,790 cases of COVID-19 across 37 countries had been confirmed with 44 deaths as of that morning.
Tedros said there are Wuhan coronavirus cases in Iran that trace back to Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, and Oman. Cases in Italy have been linked to Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland.
The WHO director-general also spoke against unjustified anxiety, bordering on hysteria, from media-fueled exaggerations over the new strain of coronavirus. According to Tedros, “using the word ‘pandemic’ carelessly has no tangible benefit but it does have a significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralyzing systems.”
While there are no proven COVID-19 treatments available and it will take at least 12 months to formulate a preventative vaccine, health officials announced that human trials to test a potential vaccine for the novel coronavirus are targeted to start in six weeks.
Preliminary results from two clinical trials that tested potential treatments for COVID-19 are expected in three weeks.