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Wuhan emerges from lockdown as global deaths spiral


Wuhan – the Chinese city and origin point of the coronavirus pandemic – is lifting its 76-day lockdown and allowing inward and outward travel, as deaths continue to increase around the world.

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Wuhan’s unprecedented lockdown served as a model for countries battling the coronavirus since it emerged late last year and took hold in February and March.

As of todauy, the city’s 11 million residents are now permitted to leave without special authorisation – as long as a mandatory smartphone application powered by a mix of data-tracking and government surveillance shows they are healthy and have not been in recent contact with anyone confirmed to have the virus.

Traffic began to move through newly-reopened bridges, tunnels and highway toll booths, while hundreds waited for the first trains and flights out of the city.

Restrictions in the city where most of China’s more than 82,000 virus cases and more than 3300 deaths were reported have been gradually relaxed in recent weeks as the number of new cases steadily declined.

The latest government figures reported on Tuesday listed no new cases.

While there are questions about the veracity of China’s count, the unprecedented lockdown of Wuhan and its surrounding province of Hubei have been successful enough that countries around the world adopted similar measures.

During the 76-day lockdown, Wuhan residents had been allowed out of their homes only to buy food or attend to other tasks deemed absolutely necessary.

Wuhan’s lifting travel restrictions came as New York City reported its deadliest day of the pandemic, with 731 new deaths taking its toll past 4000, eclipsing the number killed at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Across the US, the death toll topped 12,000, with around 380,000 confirmed infections. 

Spain reported another 743 people virus deaths overnight, taking its total to 13,798, the second highest in the world after Italy, with its 140,510 confirmed cases the highest in Europe.

Italy’s death toll rose by 604 to 17,127 but the country also reported the lowest increase in new infections in almost a month.

Another 3039 people tested positive for the coronavirus, the lowest daily jump since March 13, with the number of infections rising to 135,586.

France recorded another 597 hospital deaths to reach a new tally of 10,328, with numbers rising sharply since authorities started compiling systematic returns from old people’s homes.

Health authorities said France had not yet reached it peak but there were signs it was slowing down, with only 59 new places needed in intensive care units across the country over 24 hours.

Latest figures showed a total of 7131 patients in intensive care, well over the 5000 intensive care beds that France had before it scrambled to expand capacity as the epidemic hit.

Officials warned that it was far too early to talk about ending strict lockdown rules that came into effect on March 17, which are expected to be extended when they nominally expire on April 15.

Instead, the rules have been tightened in Paris, with city authorities announcing that from Wednesday, residents would be banned from taking outdoor exercise between 10am and 7pm.

Britain’s coronavirus-linked death toll jumped again by 786 on Tuesday to take its total to more than 6000.

The health ministry said the total number of confirmed infections rose to more than 55,000, from 270,000 people tested, but government experts estimate that many hundreds of thousands of people are infected.

The ministry’s data covers only deaths in hospital and excluded those at care facilities, hospices and private homes.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in stable condition in an intensive care unit after contracting coronavirus about two weeks ago.

Johnson was admitted to hospital on Sunday and moved to intensive care on Monday after his condition worsened.

He has received oxygen treatment and is breathing without any assistance, foreign minister Dominic Raab said.

“The prime minister’s condition is stable and he remains in intensive care for close monitoring. He is in good spirits,” the Downing Street spokesman said on Tuesday.

-with AAP

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