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China reports rise in number of imported coronavirus cases

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Medical workers receive a COVID-19 patient at a hospital in Wuhan where the new coronavirus outbreak began. Xinhua

BEIJING (AFP) – China reported an increase in imported coronavirus cases Wednesday, fuelling concerns that infections from overseas could undermine progress in halting the spread of the virus.

There were 22 more deaths and 24 new cases nationwide, according to the National Health Commission.

China has made massive progress in its battle against the virus, prompting President Xi Jinping to visit Wuhan, the central city at the heart of the global epidemic, on Tuesday and declare that it has “basically curbed” the spread of the disease.

The number of new cases has dramatically fallen in recent weeks but Wednesday’s numbers were a slight uptick from the previous day due to the increase in imported cases.

Ten of the new cases came from abroad – most from Italy, the worst-hit country outside China.

Six of the imported cases were in Beijing, which is enforcing a 14-day quarantine for people arriving from countries deemed to be high-risk, including Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan.

There have now been 79 cases imported from abroad.

The country, however, has made significant progress in curbing domestic infections.

New cases in Wuhan fell to a new low, with 13 infections reported on Wednesday, while only one other non-imported case was recorded elsewhere in the country.

Wuhan and its surrounding province, Hubei, have been under lockdown since late January in an unprecedented effort that has prevented 56 million people from venturing to other parts of China.

But with Hubei reporting zero cases outside Wuhan for several days in a row, the province announced Tuesday that it would allow healthy people in low-risk areas to travel within the province.

The virus has infected nearly 81,000 people in China so far, with a large majority having already recovered. The national death toll rose to 3,158 on Wednesday.

The global death toll from the new coronavirus has passed 4,000 and the outbreak has spread to over 100 countries.

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