Wuhan reports no new coronavirus cases, offering hope to world
BEIJING — Last month, Wuhan was overwhelmed with thousands of new cases of coronavirus each day, but in a dramatic development that underscores just how much the outbreak has pivoted toward Europe and the United States, Chinese authorities said Thursday that the city and it's surrounding province had no new cases to report.
The news offered a rare glimmer of hope for the rest of the world as it battles the virus, and perhaps a lesson in the strict measures needed to halt its spread. It came as President Donald Trump likened the fight to “a war” and invoked emergency authority to marshal industry to deal with the pandemic.
Wuhan was where the outbreak first took hold and thousands once lay sick or dying in hurriedly constructed hospitals. But Chinese authorities said Thursday that all 34 new cases recorded over the previous day had been imported from abroad.
“Today we have seen the dawn after so many days of hard effort,” said Jiao Yahui, a senior inspector of the national health commission.
Still the virus continued to take its toll elsewhere, both human and economic. Stocks tumbled again on Wall Street on fears of a prolonged recession, falling so fast they triggered another automatic trading halt, while major U.S. auto manufacturers said they were shutting down their North American factories.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed more than 1,300 points on Wednesday, or over 6%, and has now lost nearly all of the gains it had posted since Trump's inauguration. Oil dropped below $21 per barrel for the first time since 2002. Shares in Asia continued their slide on Thursday.
Around the world, countries shut down their borders. The U.S. and Canada both closed their borders to all but essential travel and Trump said he plans to assert extraordinary powers to immediately turn back to Mexico anyone who crosses over the southern border illegally.
The White House pressed Congress to swiftly pass a potentially $1 trillion rescue package to prop up the economy and speed relief checks to Americans in a matter of weeks.
Calling himself a “wartime president,” Trump invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 to steer industrial output and overcome shortages of face masks, ventilators and other supplies as hospitals brace for an expected onslaught of cases.
The Korean War-era law gives the president extraordinary authority to compel industries to expand production and turn out vital materials. It was most recently used after the 2017 Puerto Rico hurricane to speed up contracts for food and other necessities.
"It's a war," Trump said, likening the coronavirus fight to measures taken during World War II and warning of national sacrifices ahead.
While China did not report any new cases in Wuhan or Hubei province it did record eight additional deaths.
Jiao Yahui said they were “delighted to see this double-zero increase” which meant their control and medical treatment methods were working well.
Wuhan has been under a strict lockdown since January. Officials are moving to loosen travel restrictions, but only inside the surrounding province of Hubei where most checkpoints will be taken down. Wuhan remains cut-off, with only those with special permission allowed to travel in or out.
The lockdown will be lifted there only if no additional cases are reported for two consecutive weeks, which may happen next month, Li Lanjuan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, was quoted as saying.