• In his first visit to Wuhan since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, President Xi Jinping was said to be meeting medical workers, soldiers, volunteers and police officers, as well as patients and residents.
  • In Wuhan, 12 of the 14 temporary hospitals dedicated to treating coronavirus patients have closed, as the spread of infection slows down.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, on Tuesday, marking the first time he has done so since the epidemic began late last year.

travel tourism china wuhan coronavirus facemask health infection santiation washing hands droplet transmission virus COVID-19 China epidemic pandemic
A man wearing a protective face mask is seen on a crossroads as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Shanghai, China.
Image: REUTERS/Aly Song

Xi was mostly absent from Chinese state media coverage of the crisis in its early days. Starting last month, he has been more visible as the situation worsened.

During his trip to Wuhan, he will “visit and express regards to medical workers, military officers and soldiers, community workers, police officers, officials and volunteers who have been fighting the epidemic on the front line, as well as patients and residents during the inspection,” state news agency Xinhua said.

China coronavirus cases
Spread of COVID-19 in China.
Image: World Economic Forum

His arrival in the city, where the virus is believed to have first taken hold, comes after the spread of the virus in mainland China has sharply slowed in the past week and attention has turned to preventing imported infections from overseas hot spots such as Iran, Italy and South Korea.

“It is obvious that Xi could not have visited Wuhan earlier because the risk of him contracting the virus there was too high initially,” said Professor Zhang Ming of Renmin University. “He is there now to reap the harvest.”

Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, is studying plans to allow people in areas at a medium or low risk of contracting the coronavirus to start traveling, state media said on Tuesday, citing a meeting chaired by the province’s party chief, Ying Yong.

The meeting, reported by the official Hubei Daily, said people may be permitted to start traveling by using a mobile-based monitoring system rolled out by many local authorities in China in recent weeks.

Mainland China had 19 new coronavirus infections on Monday, the National Health Commission said on Tuesday, down from 40 a day earlier. It also marked the third straight day of no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases outside of Hubei.

Of the new cases, 17 were in Wuhan, while one was in Beijing and one other in Guangdong due to people arriving from abroad, according to the health authority.

That brings the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 80,754.

However, Chinese authorities have ramped up warnings about the risks from foreigners and Chinese nationals traveling to China from viral hot spots abroad such as Iran and Italy.

The one case in Beijing on Monday was due to a traveler from Britain, and the one in Guangdong was an imported case from Spain. As of Monday, there have been 69 imported cases.

Since the outbreak, 59,897 patients have been discharged from hospitals in China. Recently discharged patients need to go into quarantine for 14 days.

In Wuhan, 12 of the 14 temporary hospitals dedicated to treating coronavirus patients have closed, with the remaining two due to shut on Tuesday.

On Saturday, a small hotel used to quarantine people under observation in southern Fujian province collapsed, killing 20, while 10 had yet to be rescued.

Of the 71 people inside the hotel in Quanzhou city at the time of the collapse, 58 were in under quarantine, the Quanzhou city government said.

As of the end of Monday, the overall death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China reached 3,136, up by 17 from the previous day.

Hubei reported 17 new deaths, all of which were in Wuhan.