Chinese President Xi Jinping attends an event. File photo
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, on Tuesday, the first time he has done so since the epidemic began and a sign that Beijing believes its control efforts are at a turning point, as new cases tumble.
His arrival in the city, where the virus is believed to have first taken hold late last year, comes after its spread in mainland China has sharply slowed in the past week and as attention has turned to preventing imported infections from overseas hot spots such as Iran, Italy and South Korea.
News of the visit gave a lift to Chinese stocks, with the blue-chip index climbing back into positive territory after falling as much as 1% in morning trade.
"It is obvious that Xi could not have visited Wuhan earlier because the risk of him contracting the virus there was initially too high," Zhang Ming, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing, told Reuters.
"He is there now to reap the harvest. His being there means the CCP (Communist Party of China) may declare victory against the virus soon," Zhang said.
China came in for criticism at home and globally over its early response to the outbreak, suppressing information and downplaying its risks, but its draconian efforts at control, including the lock-down of Wuhan and Hubei province where it is originated, have been effective at curbing the spread.
Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, said on Tuesday it would implement a "health code" system to allow people in areas at a medium or low risk of contracting the coronavirus to start travelling.
During his trip to Wuhan, Xi 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.
The coronavirus outbreak that has claimed more than 4,000 lives globally. The notice said key sectors such as public transport, medical supply and producers of daily necessities will be allowed to return to work.
In January, China effectively shut down Wuhan and placed its 11 million residents in effective quarantine — a move it then replicated in the rest of Hubei province, putting 50 million people in mass isolation.
For the second consecutive day there was only one more fresh infection in Wuhan, the central city where the virus first emerged late last year, the National Health Commission said.
Authorities have apprehended, warned and penalised around 700,000 people since March for violating measures such as ignoring physical distancing and not wearing masks, police data shows.
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Bloomberg described Sheikh Mohamed as the peacemaker in the Middle East, after he revolutionized the geopolitics by announcing the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel for the first time in the region, after the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, 26 years ago.