China's President Xi visits Wuhan as number of new coronavirus cases tumbles

# 10 March 2020 08:39 (UTC +04:00)

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, APA reports quoting Reuters.

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.

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.