China intensifies border measures after rise in imported coronavirus cases

By Jesús Centeno

Beijing, Mar 23 (efe-epa).- China imposed strict customs measures on Monday and diverted Beijing-bound flights after a rise in imported coronavirus cases.

Authorities reported 39 new infections in the last 24 hours and 45 on Sunday, all were travellers who had arrived into the Asian country from overseas global hotspots.

There were nine Covid-19 deaths in the last day, the fifth consecutive day the figure has been in single digits, according to the country’s National Health Commission.

The deaths all occurred in the city of Wuhan, capital of the central-eastern province of Hubei and home to 11 million people, the epicentre of the outbreak which was put into a strict lockdown two months ago.

There have not been any reported new infections in Wuhan or Hubei for five consecutive days, according to the health commission.

Fears that imported cases could trigger a new wave of contagion prompted the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration to announce that starting from Monday all international flights bound for Beijing must divert to one of 12 other cities.

Passengers will have to undergo health checks before being able to continue their journey to the capital.

Liu Haitao, an official at China’s National Immigration Administration, said passengers should “think twice about choosing flights that stop in Beijing” and urged travellers in the Chinese capital to allow more time to catch their flights.

The General Administration of Customs also announced more stringent measures, including the disinfection of vehicles and quarantines at ports for anyone entering the country.

Customs official Song Yueqian said the organisation was planning to issue warnings for countries and regions that require “prevention and control” to enter Chinese ports.

Shanghai city reduced its level of emergency on Monday from the first level to the second, leaving the provinces of Hubei and Hebei and Tianjin and Beijing cities on the highest state of alert.

In neighbouring Hong Kong the government on Monday banned the entry of any non-residents into the territory for the next 14 days after a spike in cases from overseas.

Chief executive Carrie Lam said flight stopovers in Hong Kong will also be suspended.

Any non-residents with passports from Macau, Taiwan or mainland China who have been in other countries in the last 14 days will also not be able to enter Hong Kong.

The semi-autonomous city has seen more than 300 infections and four deaths.

In mainland China the total number of infections has been more than 83,000 with more than 3,270 fatalities.

Around 72,700 people have recovered from the disease, leaving 5,120 active infections, of which around 1,750 were in a serious condition.

The Chinese government declared on March 12 that transmissions had peaked in the country.

Since it emerged in December the coronavirus pandemic has spread around the world, with 350,000 global infections, of which 100,000 have recovered, and more than 15,000 deaths in 167 countries.

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