China has no new local infections for the first time, after months of lockdowns and quarantine

A worker disinfects around the No. 7 Hospital, once designated for only COVID-19 patients, in...
A worker disinfects around the No. 7 Hospital, once designated for only COVID-19 patients, in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Thursday, March 19, 2020. The hospital is getting back to be a normal hospital after the last coronavirus patient was transferred away. (FeatureChina via AP Images)(KWTX)
Published: Mar. 19, 2020 at 5:14 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

China has reported no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases for the first time since the the pandemic began, marking a major turning point in the global battle to contain Covid-19.

At a news conference on Thursday morning, officials from China's National Health Commission announced there had been just 34 new cases in the past 24 hours -- all imported from overseas -- and eight new deaths, all in Hubei, the province where the virus was first identified.

There were there no new reported cases in Hubei at all on Wednesday.

Why this matters: The milestone will likely be held up as proof of the ongoing success of China's sweeping, top-down efforts to control the virus, despite persistent allegations that local officials mishandled the initial outbreak. Just last month, mainland China was reporting thousands of new cases every day, and was considered the most high-risk infection area in the world.

In the weeks following the early spread of the virus, the government enacted draconian quarantine measures and strict travel restrictions affecting hundreds of millions of citizens. In some hard-hit cities, residents have been unable to leave their apartments for more than a month, while transport between major population hubs has been limited or halted altogether.

The unprecedented nature of the measures has exacted a steep toll, both on the many millions of ordinary Chinese forced to endure life under lockdown and the country's economy, which has seen a steep decline in recent weeks.

But it has also apparently worked, with zero new local transmissions.

And as the danger has lessened in China, the global infection rate continues to accelerate, with countries across multiple continents now grappling with fast-expanding outbreaks of their own.