For several days now China has reported few or zero new domestic cases of Covid-19 infection, claiming success in controlling the outbreak which only one month ago saw thousands of confirmations every day.
However, residents and analysts have questioned the near-zero rate of community transmissions, expressing concern that the Chinese government is prioritizing economic recovery over total virus containment. Allegations of recent infections in Wuhan have persisted, as have reports of manipulation in figures and refusals by Chinese authorities to record asymptomatic cases.
The low figures have led Chinese authorities to lift the stringent travel restrictions in Hubei, effectively freeing millions of people from two months of extraordinary or rather extreme lockdown.
On Wednesday residents of Hubei, outside of Wuhan city, were allowed to travel out as long as they had a “green code” health designation. Wuhan’s ban on travel will lift on 8 April.
Ms. Tang, a 25-year-old Xiaogan resident, said she didn’t feel optimistic about the lifting of restrictions.
“I have been out there, there have been still some people within the street, but definitely fewer than usual. I feel travel is really very risky. I’m worried that patients who are discharged get tested positive later, and therefore the zero cases [declaration by the government] may be false,” she told Chinese News Agencies.
Tang said her main concern was finding a new job within the next few months, and reuniting together with her boyfriend who wasn’t in Xiaogan when the lockdown was announced.
“But for the present, we won’t [see each other]. After all, there are still many of us who we’d have contact with along the way, and there are still risks.”
Wuhan resident, Steven Hsu was visiting his wife’s family in Xiaogan when the lockdown went into force. He told reporters that they weren’t allowed outside for the first four weeks and that they were ready to apply for health certificates and permits to travel back to Wuhan, but he continued to work remotely.
“It’s been two months since then,” he said.
“Now we are expecting the roadblock in Wuhan to be released, which can hopefully be in a few days, then we are going to drive home.”
Hsu said his family feared the danger of infection from people that were asymptomatic, which they were still staying at home aside from antenatal visits to the hospital together with his pregnant wife.
“There are already many people in the general hospital within the country today, most of them wearing masks. I could see that everybody remains very cautious about the situation.”
As China loosens its containment measures, the US risks becoming the new center of the pandemic.
President Donald Trump has claimed the US is nearing the tip of its fight against the virus, despite the world Health Organisation warning it is in grave danger of a rapid escalation within the severity of its situation.
Trump flagged a deadline for restarting the US economy by Easter at odds along with his own health experts, and despite rhetoric to the contrary, has privately appealed to Europe and Asia for help in containing the virus.
The number of cases within the US is probably going to be far greater than the 54,964 confirmed to date. The WHO said 85% of cases reported in the last 24 hours were in Europe or the US.
According to figures from Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the pandemic, over 422,652 people had confirmed diagnoses of Covid-19 on Wednesday. 18,901 people have died and 108,349 people have recovered.