China reported fewer new coronavirus cases on Thursday that involved travellers arriving from abroad, but said locally transmitted infections rose, with the capital Beijing seeing new local cases for the first time in more than three weeks.
To prevent a rebound of the epidemic as business activity resumes, an increasing number of Chinese provinces have begun offering coronavirus testing to the public. At the same time, local authorities are offering coupons to residents in hopes they will spend money to revive an economy ravaged by the outbreak.
On Friday, China is expected to report that its economy shrank by 6.5 per cent in the first quarter, in what would be the first contraction since at least 1992, when it first started issuing quarterly gross domestic product (GDP) data.
New imported cases dropped to 34 on Wednesday from 36 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said, down for the third straight day, amid stringent border checks, reduced international flights, and a ban on entry by foreigners.
But the number of locally transmitted cases rose to 12 from 10 a day earlier, with Beijing seeing three new local cases, the first since March 23.
The other new local cases on Wednesday were in the provinces of Heilongjiang and Guangdong, both of which have been battling an influx of infected travellers, mostly Chinese nationals returning from abroad.
Overall, mainland China reported 46 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, the same as a day earlier, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 82,341.
ARMY MEDICS PULL OUT
On Thursday, state television reported that President Xi Jinping had approved the withdrawal of 4,000 army medical personnel who had been sent to the central province of Hubei, where the outbreak originated, in another milestone as the province and its capital city Wuhan return towards normal.
Earlier this month, Wuhan lifted a lockdown that had paralysed the city of 11 million for more than two months in a drastic effort to contain the virus.