March 19, 2020 / 2:22 AM / 15 days ago

China Daily says Wuhan's new coronavirus cases could cease by mid-late March

Police officers salute as a medical worker from outside Wuhan arrives at the Wuhan Railway Station before leaving the epicentre of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Hubei province, China March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Wuhan is expected to see new coronavirus infections dry up by mid-to-late March and the lockdown of the central Chinese city, the epicentre of the outbreak, may be lifted once there are no new cases for 14 days, the state-backed China Daily reported.

However, strict disease control and prevention measures will still be needed to prevent a possible rebound, China Daily reported on Thursday, citing epidemiologist Li Lanjuan.

Li is the director of China’s State Key Laboratory for Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases.

“If no new case of the coronavirus has been reported for 14 consecutive days in Wuhan following the last reported case, we believe it will be the time when the lockdown can be gradually lifted,” Li told China Daily. “We expect new cases will cease to appear in mid or late March.”

“After the lockdown is loosened, we still need to strictly carry out routine measures to prevent and control the virus to prevent a possible rebound of the outbreak.”

Wuhan, a city of 11 million and the capital of central Hubei province, has been locked down since the Lunar New Year festival in mid-January, and remains the only city still designated as “high-risk” in the province and subject to strict travel bans.

The death toll from the coronavirus in Hubei stood at 3,130 as of March 18, accounting for more than a third of the global tally of over 8,000 deaths.

But Wuhan reported no new cases on Wednesday for the first time since the outbreak. It previously saw just one domestic transmission per day on Monday and Tuesday. The rest of Hubei has had no new infections for almost two weeks.

Overall, mainland China is seeing fewer local transmissions. It last reported 34 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, the National Health Commission said, all of which are imported infections.

Reporting by Emily Chow and Wang Jing; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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