Drop in China’s new coronavirus cases; none in Wuhan for sixth day

People wearing face masks are seen outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Wuhan, Hubei province. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 March 2020

Drop in China’s new coronavirus cases; none in Wuhan for sixth day

  • Business reopened in Wuhan after almost two months of lockdown
  • Policymakers are scrambling to revitalize the economy

WUHAN, China: China reported a drop in new coronavirus infections for a fourth day as drastic curbs on international travelers reined in the number of imported cases, while policymakers turned their efforts to healing the world’s second-largest economy.
The city of Wuhan, at the center of the outbreak, reported no new cases for a sixth day, as businesses reopened and residents set about reclaiming a more normal life after a lockdown for almost two months.
Smartly turned out staff waited in masks and gloves to greet customers at entrances to the newly-reopened Wuhan International Plaza, home to boutiques of luxury brands such as Cartier and Louis Vuitton.
“The Wuhan International Plaza is very representative (of the city),” said Zhang Yu, 29. “So its reopening really makes me feel this city is coming back to life.”
Sunday’s figure of 31 new cases, including one locally transmitted infection, was down from 45 the previous day, the National Health Commission said.
As infections fall, policymakers are scrambling to revitalize an economy nearly paralyzed by months-long curbs to control the spread of the flu-like disease.
On Monday, the central bank unexpectedly cut the interest rate on reverse repurchase agreements by 20 basis points, the largest in nearly five years.
The government is pushing businesses and factories to reopen, as it rolls out fiscal and monetary stimulus to spur recovery from what is feared to be an outright economic contraction in the quarter to March.
China’s exports and imports could worsen as the pandemic spreads, depressing demand both at home and abroad, Xin Guobin, the vice minister of industry and information technology, said on Monday.
The country has extended loans of nearly $28 billion to 5,000 businesses, from nearly $42 billion allocated to help companies as they resume work, Xin said.
Authorities in Ningbo said they would encourage national banks to offer preferential credit of up to 100 billion yuan to the eastern port city’s larger export firms. The city government will subsidize such loans, it said in a notice.
Virus concerns
While new infections have fallen sharply from February’s peak, authorities worry about a second wave triggered by returning Chinese, many of them students.
China cut international flights massively from Sunday for an indefinite period, after it began denying entry to almost all foreigners a day earlier.
Average daily arrivals at airports this week are expected to be about 4,000, down from 25,000 last week, an official of the Civil Aviation Administration of China told a news conference in Beijing on Monday.
The return to work has also prompted concern about potential domestic infections as travel curbs are rolled back, especially regarding carriers who exhibit no, or very mild, symptoms of the highly contagious virus.
Northwestern Gansu province reported a new case of a traveler from the central province of Hubei, who drove back with a virus-free health code, national health authorities said.
Authorities in Zhejiang province said asymptomatic patients with pneumonia would face the same quarantine conditions as confirmed cases, including 14 days in isolation centers, the state news agency, Xinhua, reported.
Hubei authorities say 4.6 million people in the province returned to work by Saturday, with 2.8 million of them heading for other parts of China.
Most of the departing migrant workers went to the southern provinces of Guangdong and Fujian, the eastern provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, and northeast China.
In Hubei’s capital of Wuhan, more retail complexes and shopping streets reopened. Electric carmaker Tesla Inc. has also reopened a showroom, a company executive said on Weibo.
Shoppers queued 1-1/2 meters apart for temperature checks at Wuhan International Plaza, while flashing “green” mobile telephone codes attesting to a clean bill of health.
To be cleared to resume work, Wuhan residents must take nucleic acid tests twice.
“Being able to be healthy and leave the house, and meet other colleagues who are also healthy is a very happy thing,” said Wang Xueman, a cosmetics sales representative.


India says it will ‘peacefully resolve’ border stand-off with China

Updated 28 May 2020

India says it will ‘peacefully resolve’ border stand-off with China

  • Development follows US President’s mediation in the dispute
  • Stand-off began in the first week of May when a scuffle broke out near Pangong Tso Lake

NEW DELHI: After weeks of a border stand-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, New Delhi on Thursday announced it would resolve the matter diplomatically.

“India is engaged with China to peacefully resolve the matter. At the same time we remain firm in our resolve to ensuring India’s sovereignty and national security,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The development follows US President Donald Trump’s mediation in the dispute. In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Trump said, “We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute.”

The stand-off began when a scuffle broke out near Pangong Tso Lake in the first week of May. According to Indian reports, Chinese troops set up dozens of tents on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

A few days later, a Chinese patrol was stopped by Indian guards near the Nathula Pass in the Indian state of Sikkim. A troop build-up in the Ladakh and Sikkim areas followed the incidents. Reports suggested that 10,000 Chinese soldiers were sent to the border.

While New Delhi was still blaming China last week for “hindering” Indian patrols at the border, its Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that “the two sides have established mechanisms both at military and diplomatic levels to resolve situations which may arise in border areas peacefully through dialogue and continue to remain engaged through these channels.”

Foreign policy experts say that in the absence of any concrete information it is difficult to comment on whether any resolution is actually taking place.

“The whole region of Ladakh is undefined, there is no agreed LAC, in some areas they respect each other’s position, and in some areas they don’t, which is the crux of the problem,” Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli, of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, told Arab News.

“Geopolitical interests of both countries are at the center of the conflict,” Kondapalli said, “For India Ladakh is linked to its sovereignty. India has so many ongoing projects in that area. For China its ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes not far away from the region and connect to the Gwadar port in Pakistan. Besides, once American troops leave Afghanistan and a new regime takes over Kabul this might have its implications in the region.”

Manoj Kewalramani, of the Bangalore-based think tank The Takshashila Institution, said that from a geopolitical perspective both sides need stability at this time and the current situation on the border is not helping either of them.

“Beijing is facing challenges on many fronts, an economic slowdown, tensions with the US, international anger amid the pandemic, protests in Hong Kong, etc.,” he said. “Likewise, New Delhi’s interests lie in managing the COVID-19 outbreak at home and focusing on reviving the economy.”