China has reported one domestically transmitted coronavirus case after three days with 54 new imported infections on Thursday, prompting Beijing to temporarily cancel visas for foreigners and restrict flights to prevent the second wave of the deadly COVID-19 in the country, health officials said on Friday. The Chinese health authority said on Friday that it received reports of 55 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Chinese mainland on Thursday, of which 54 were imported. A new domestic case was reported in Zhejiang Province, the National Health Commission (NHC) said while epicentres Hubei and Wuhan continue to report zero cases.
Also on Thursday, five deaths were reported all from Hubei province taking the overall death toll of coronavirus in the country to 3,292.
The overall confirmed cases on the mainland had reached 81,340 by the end of Thursday, including 3,292 people who died of the disease, 3,460 patients who were still undergoing treatment. The imported cases mostly of the Chinese nationals returning from abroad, especially the new virus epicentres like Italy and other EU countries, increased steadily in the last few days.
On Thursday, 54 new imported cases were reported from different cities taking the total so far to 595. The NHC said 189 people were still suspected of being infected with the virus. By the end of Thursday, 453 confirmed cases, including four deaths, have been reported in Hong Kong, 33 confirmed cases in the Macao and 252 in Taiwan, including two deaths.
As the imported cases increased, China on Thursday announced a temporary ban on the entry of foreigners holding valid visas or residence permits and drastically cut international flights in a bid to prevent the second wave of infections amid a surge in the number of imported cases in the country.
In view of the rapid spread of the COVID-19 across the world, China has decided to temporarily suspend the entry into China by foreign nationals holding visas or residence permits still valid to the time of this announcement, effective from midnight of March 28, 2020, a statement jointly released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the National Immigration Administration said.
Earlier, China's civil aviation regulator issued a circular on Thursday to further cut international flights as part of the efforts to stem the inflow of novel COVID-19 cases.
All domestic airlines were allowed to operate only one flight to each country per week, while foreign aviation companies should keep only one air route to China and there should be no more than one flight every week for each of the air route to China, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said in a circular that will be effective from March 29.
Stricter measures will also be taken to curb the spread of the virus on flights arriving or leaving the country and ensure that passenger load factor is lower than 75 per cent, the CAAC said, adding that it might further slash international flights if necessary.
The virus that first emerged in China's Wuhan city in the Hubei province in December last year has spread to 175 countries, infected 531,860 people and has claimed 24,057 lives, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus tracker.