SHANGHAI: The number of new coronavirus cases that came to mainland China from overseas surpassed the number of locally transmitted new infections for the second time on Saturday (Mar 14), data released by the National Health Commission (NHC) showed on Sunday.
Mainland China had 20 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Mar 14, up from 11 cases a day earlier. Of Saturday's cases, 16 involved travellers entering China from overseas, it said.
The remaining four cases were recorded in the city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak is believed to have first begun. Saturday also marked the tenth consecutive day where Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, recorded zero new infections outside Wuhan.
The latest numbers underscore how China, where the epidemic began in December, appears to now face a greater threat of new infections from outside its borders as it continues to slow the spread of the virus domestically.
Of the 16 imported cases, five were found in the capital Beijing and three in Shanghai. The provinces of Zhejiang, Gansu and Guangdong respectively reported four, three and one cases.
The Shanghai case involved a Chinese native who lived in the Italian city of Milan, and travelled back to China via Frankfurt on Mar 12, the government said. Three of the cases in Beijing involved travellers from Spain while one came from Italy and the other from Thailand.
The Gansu government said one of its cases was found on a charter flight from Iran while the other two were travellers from Saudi Arabia.
China, where the epidemic first appeared in December, appears to now face a greater threat of new infections from outside its borders as it continues to slow the spread of the virus domestically. More than a hundred countries have reported infections.
Beijing has redirected all international flights that were scheduled to land at its new Daxing International Airport to Beijing Capital International Airport, and as of Sunday has cordoned off a special area to process these passengers, the state-backed Beijing News reported.
Travellers who are transiting through Beijing to other destinations will be given special assistance, it said.
Beijing's moves follow that of Shanghai, also a key hub for international flights to China, which stepped up airport screening last week, resulting in some passengers saying they had to wait as long as seven hours.
The southern province of Guangxi has said it will provide a cash incentive of 3,000-10,000 yuan (US$428-US$1,428) to people who provided clues on anyone who had travelled in from abroad but not abided by quarantine rules.
PUSH TO RESTART
China is making efforts to restart work cross its factories and businesses, which had been halted amid virus-related curbs, as the numbers of new infections fall further.
Some cities with no infections in recent days, such as Shanghai and Hangzhou, have started opening tourist attractions, restaurants and gyms.
The western region of Xinjiang also plans to reopen schools in batches starting from Monday, state media reported.
Limitations, however, remain in place.
Beijing, for instance, has allowed restaurants to start reopening but requires them to prevent diners from eating meals while directly facing each other and tables must be spaced a metre apart, the Xinhua news agency said.
Saturday's figures bring the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 80,844.
The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 3,199 as of the end of Saturday, up by 10 from the previous day. All ten deaths occurred in Wuhan, the NHC said.