China, where the virus first emerged, confirmed it had no new domestic cases on Wednesday for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak began, a major milestone. But it reported 34 new cases among people who recently returned to China.
Singapore also reported 47 new cases, of which 33 were imported – 30 of them returned Singapore residents. South Korea saw a jump in new cases on Thursday with 152, though it is not clear how many were imported.
A new cluster there is centred on a nursing home in Daegu, where 74 patients have tested positive. Japan reported three new cases on Wednesday. But Hokkaido, the worst-affected Japanese region with 154 cases, is lifting its state of emergency – in place since late February – after officials said the spread of the virus appeared to be ending.
Officials have urged people to remain cautious and stay at home, but said there had been “no surge of infected patients that led to the collapse of the medical environment”.
“We’ve carried out powerful measures on refraining from going out, but from now on, we will move into a stage of reducing risks of the spread of infection while maintaining social and economic activities,” governor Naomichi Suzuki said on Wednesday.
China’s National Health Commission (NHC) reported no domestically transmitted cases in China for the first time since the virus emerged in late December.
It also said there were no cases at all in Wuhan, the outbreak centre which was essentially locked down earlier this year, but 34 cases arriving from abroad.
Some Wuhan residents who have been shut up inside their homes for six weeks are being allowed out, as long as they do not gather in groups. Some businesses have also been allowed to resume work.
In districts which have been cleared as “epidemic-free”, small markets and convenience stores are reopening.
As protection against imported infections, a hospital that used to treat Sars patients has been re-opened in the Chinese capital Beijing to quarantine suspected coronavirus cases. In Hong Kong, new arrivals will have to wear an electronic bracelet to track their movements.
China’s death toll stands at 3,245, however there have been ongoing questions over the reliability of China’s data.
All four countries had all been showing success in controlling domestic cases, but there is concern that increases elsewhere could unravel their progress.