Residents of Wuhan have been warned to stay indoors and strengthen protection measures, a few days before travel restrictions on the city at the centre of the pandemic are scheduled to be lifted.
The city’s top official urged vigilance as authorities sought to ward off a second wave of infection from incoming travellers, while also easing some of its stringent containment measures.
China has reported more than 81,600 cases of the virus since the outbreak began, including 3,322 deaths, but the level of transparency around the figures has been questioned. Until this week China’s national health commission was not including people who tested positive but showed no symptoms in its tally. On Friday it reported 31 new confirmed cases, including two locally transmitted infections. Four people died, all of them in Wuhan.
While the number of daily cases has dropped dramatically since February, Wang Zhonglin, Wuhan’s Communist party chief, said the risk of a rebound in the city’s epidemic remained high due to both internal and external risks and it must continue to maintain prevention and control measures.
Wuhan has eased restrictions over recent weeks and authorities have said curbs on travel will lift on 8 April, for those with the green “health code”.
China will hold national mourning on Saturday for 14 “martyrs” who died while responding to the pandemic. National and foreign embassies and consulates will fly flags at half mast and all public entertainment will stop. At 10am there will be three minutes’ silence.
Li Wenliang is among the 14 health workers and police declared to be “martyrs” for their efforts. The Chinese doctor was reprimanded by authorities for “spreading rumours” after he sought to warn colleagues about the emergence of Covid-19 in December, but in March an investigation into his death exonerated Li and recommended the reprimand be withdrawn.
The pandemic has reached new heights across the world – in particular in the US where authorities have reported nearly 240,000 infections and 5,798 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins university tracker.
More than a million people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and more than 51,400 people have died.
Donald Trump has ordered defence forces to start making ventilators, after weeks of resisting calls to broadly implement the Defence Production Act. The president has blamed the states for a lack of medical supplies, saying they should have stockpiled and the federal government was “a back-up, not an ordering clerk”.
New York is said to be at risk of running out of ventilators in less than a week. The governor, Andrew Cuomo, has been among many state leaders saying they were desperate for assistance and complaining that states have to bid against each other and federal agencies just to secure supplies. US authorities were expected to release new guidelines on the wearing of masks, amid conflicting recommendations and policies between different countries.
In other developments around the world:
Italy remained the country worst affected with 13,915 fatalities, followed by Spain with 10,003 deaths. The US was the third worst affected country with 5,316 total deaths.
The World Health Organization said Middle Eastern governments needed to act fast on limiting the spread of the virus after cases nearly doubled in a week to almost 60,000.
Half the world’s planes have gone into storage with international seat capacity falling by almost 80% from a year ago. The data suggested the aviation industry may take years to recover.
British Airways suspended 30,000 staff and London’s Heathrow airport said it would shut down one of its two runways from Monday. Cathay Pacific will ground most of its fleet after a huge fall in passenger numbers.
Hong Kong ordered pubs and bars to close for two weeks from Friday night with anyone violating the law facing six months in jail and thousands of dollars in fines.
The Zaandam cruise liner, on which four people died, finally docked in Fort Lauderdale after official wrangling over whether to let it in. Dozens of those on board were sick with flu-like symptoms.
Britain’s National Health Service was preparing to open its first field hospital in London on Friday and was setting up another four temporary hospitals to treat coronavirus patients.
More than 6.65 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the US last week.
In Australia, which reported its 26th death on Friday, estate agents were warned they faced up to five years in jail if they told tenants – many of whom have become unemployed – that they should access their retirement savings to cover rent.