China has recorded no new cases of Covid-19 in Wuhan or in the surrounding Hubei province, officials said.
Wuhan had previously reported thousands of new cases of coronavirus infection daily, overwhelming its health care system.
The country’s health ministry said early on 19 March that results over the past 24 hours showed 34 new cases, all detected in people arriving from abroad.
Eight new deaths were reported, all in Wuhan.
Of those new cases of infection, 21 were in Beijing, nine in the southern manufacturing centre Guangdong, two in Shanghai and one each in coastal Zhejiang and Heilongjing in the far north-east.
China has only just begun loosening strict travel restrictions within the country, but has stepped-up 14-day quarantine regulations on those arriving in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere from overseas, amid expectations of a new influx of students and others returning home.
The country has now recorded a total of 80,928 confirmed virus cases with 3,245 deaths. 70,420 people have been released from hospital and 7,263 remain in treatment.
In the US, President Donald Trump has invoked the Defence Production Act of 1950 to steer industrial output and overcome shortages of face masks, ventilators and other supplies as hospitals braced for an expected onslaught of cases.
The invocation came as Republican Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida announced that he was the first member of Congress to test positive for the virus. Other members of Congress have self-quarantined, but none have reported positive test results.
Prior to invoking the emergency measure, Trump insisted that calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus” would not put Asian Americans at risk of retaliation, despite growing reports they are facing virus-related discrimination.
Since coronavirus infections started appearing in the United States in January, Asian Americans have shared stories ranging from minor aggression to blatant attacks from people blaming them for the pandemic, which has killed more than 130 people in the United States.
Even before cities began shutting down all restaurants to stop the spread of the virus, Chinese restaurant owners were already experiencing steep declines in business because of racial stigma.
Asked why he keeps calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus” when scientists say the disease does not respect borders and is not caused by ethnicity, President Trump told reporters at the White House that he does not consider it a racist remark.
Beijing has complained, but Trump administration officials continue to link the virus to China.
Meanwhile, the economic fall-out from the crisis continues to grow amid reports that Detroit’s Big Three car manufacturers are shutting down their factories across North America, while on Wall Street stocks slumped again and the Dow lost more than 1,300 points.
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