China has today marked a major milestone in its battle against the coronavirus pandemic as it recorded zero domestic infections for the first time since the outbreak emerged, but a spike in imported cases. 

The stark reversal comes as nations across the world have shut down in a desperate effort to contain the pandemic, with more people now infected and having died abroad than in China.

There were no new cases in Wuhan - the central city where the virus first emerged in December - for the first time since authorities started publishing figures in January, according to the National Health Commission.

Wuhan and its 11 million people were placed under strict quarantine on 23 January, with more than 40 million other people in the rest of Hubei province entering lockdown in the following days.

The rest of China also enacted tough measures to limit public gatherings.

There were eight more deaths in China - all in Hubei - raising the nationwide total to 3,245, according to the commission.

There have been nearly 81,000 infections in China but only 7,263 people remain sick with the Covid-19 disease.

The global number has shot past 200,000, with more than 8,700 deaths.


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On 10 March, President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan for the first time since the outbreak began and declared that the spread of the disease was "basically curbed".

On the same day, Hubei officials allowed people to travel within the province for the first time since January, excluding Wuhan.

Hubei authorities announced they were partially opening its borders to allow healthy people from low-risk areas to leave the province if they have jobs or residences elsewhere. This also excludes Wuhan.

Life has slowly started to return to normal in the rest of the country, with people back at work, factories up and running, and schools in some regions resuming or preparing to go back to class.

But there is concern about a second wave of infections due to an influx of cases from abroad, with an average of 20,000 people flying into China every day.

Beijing and other regions are now requiring most international arrivals to go into 14-day quarantine in designated hotels.

Around 80% of cases of Covid-19 will be a mild to moderate illness, close to 14% have severe disease and around 6% are critical. 

Generally, you need to be 15 minutes or more in the vicinity of an infected person, within 1-2 metres, to be considered at-risk or a close contact. 

The National Health Commission said there were 34 more cases brought in from abroad, the biggest daily increase in two weeks, with 189 in total now.

"We should never allow the hard-won and continuous positive trend to be reversed," President Xi said at a Communist Party leadership meeting yesterday.

The disease is believed to have jumped from an animal to humans at a market that illegally sold wild game in Wuhan late last year.

There have also been questions about China's official figures, as authorities changed its methodology to count infections, and the government has endured rare public criticism of its handling of the health emergency.

Local officials initially attempted to cover up the outbreak, with police silencing doctors who had raised the alarm about the emergence of the new virus as early as December.

One of the whistleblowers, Wuhan ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, died from the virus himself in February, sparking an outpouring of grief and anger on social media.

The first case emerged in Wuhan on 1 December, according to Chinese researchers, but it was not until 9 January the country confirmed a "new type of coronavirus".

Between 5 and 7 January, China reported no new cases of the virus, even as Japan and Thailand declared first infections - a period that coincided with annual political meetings in Wuhan and Hubei province.

Chinese investigation finds whistleblower doctor was punished 'inappropriately'

Police in China's virus epicentre Wuhan acted "inappropriately" by punishing a doctor who blew the whistle on the outbreak that has now killed more than 9,000 worldwide, a Chinese government investigation found.

Li Wenliang, one of a group of doctors in Wuhan who shared posts on social media warning of a SARS-like virus spreading in the city in December, was reprimanded by police for sharing the information and made to sign a statement agreeing not to commit any more "law-breaking actions."

Mr Li's death from the virus in February prompted an international outpouring of grief as well as anger at the government's handling of the crisis, and bold demands for freedom of speech.

A central government investigation initiated after Mr Li's death found that Wuhan police "acted inappropriately by issuing a disciplinary letter" and took "irregular law enforcement procedures," state broadcaster CCTV reported.

The investigators also found that Li's colleagues had repeatedly attempted to resuscitate the 34-year-old before he was declared dead because he was "very young," CCTV said.

Memorial for Dr Li Wenliang in California 

State media said Mr Li's colleagues told investigators, "as long as there was a bit of hope we were unwilling to give up, at the time there were no other factors."

The central government investigators "suggest" that Wuhan authorities "supervise and rectify the matter," and urged local police to revoke the disciplinary statement issued to Li, according to CCTV.

Wuhan police later issued a statement saying that giving Li a disciplinary statement had been "wrong" and they "apologise to his family for the mistake".

The deputy director of the Zhongnan Road police station was given a "demerit" on his record and the officer on duty was handed an "administrative warning", it added.

It is rare for Chinese authorities to admit such wrongdoing, but Beijing has sought to direct criticism over the mishandling of the virus outbreak onto provincial officials, with several of the region's top Communist Party and health officials sacked.

Li's death had initially been reported by state media before their reports were quickly deleted. Wuhan Central Hospital only confirmed Li's death hours later, after saying he was undergoing emergency treatment.

Social media users who immediately took to the Twitter-like Weibo platform in droves to mourn Li - before posts related to his death were scrubbed by censors - had accused hospital authorities of inappropriately attempting to resuscitate Mr Li after he had already died.

China's central government has sought to distance itself from the origins of the disease, initially by sacking local officials blamed for allowing the virus to spread, and recently by supporting the conspiracy theory that Covid-19 originated in the US.

Memorial for Dr Li Wenliang in California