BEIJING (Reuters) - Mainland China reported a drop in new coronavirus cases on Sunday, but major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai continued to wrestle with cases of infections from travellers arriving from abroad.
China had 16 new infections on Sunday, the National Health Commission said on Monday, down from 20 the previous day, taking the mainland’s tally to 80,860.
Twelve of the new figures were imported infections, exceeding the number of domestic transmissions for a third day. The World Health Organization says Europe has become the pandemic’s current epicentre.
Beijing accounted for four infections, the southern province of Guangdong for four, while the commercial hub of Shanghai had two, with one each in southwestern Yunnan and northwestern Gansu. That took the tally of imported infections to 123.
China has tightened checks on international travellers, with the capital Beijing ordering 14 days in its quarantine facilities for anyone arriving from aboard, starting Monday.
It has suspended departures by ships on international cruises from mainland ports as well as routes to South Korea and Japan, according to remarks at a news conference on Monday by the State Council, or cabinet.
Beijing has redirected all international flights that were scheduled to land at its new Daxing airport in the south to the older international airport in the northeast.
Beijing’s four new cases were all Chinese nationals returning from abroad, Pang Xinghuo, deputy director at Beijing Center for Diseases Prevention and Control said on Monday. Three had shown symptoms such as fever before they came back, yet they still boarded the long-haul international flights, Pang said.
“Those behaviours increased the risk of infection for those people travelling together,” she added.
China issued a joint statement from several ministries on Monday saying it would punish people who make false health declarations when entering the country.
Beijing police said they were investigating a case involving a 37-year-old woman coming back from the United States who had hid her symptoms before boarding.
Mainland China’s only locally transmitted new infections on Sunday were in Wuhan, the source of the outbreak and capital of the central province of Hubei, with four cases.
It was the province’s 11th consecutive day with no new infections outside Wuhan.
China’s death toll in the outbreak stood at 3,213 by Sunday, up 14 from the previous day. In Hubei, there were 14 new deaths, 13 in Wuhan.
As the rise in new cases subsides, China has stepped up donations of supplies to other countries.
Last week, Jack Ma, the billionaire co-founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba pledged to donate two million protective masks for distribution across Europe.
“The first shipment of masks and coronavirus test kits to the United States is taking off from Shanghai,” Ma said on Twitter on Monday.
Supplies donated to Laos and South Korea by China’s central province of Hunan included 100 infrared sensors, the official Xinhua news agency said.
China also sent a flight to Milan to pick up Chinese citizens and overseas students from areas hit by the epidemic, state-run CCTV reported on Monday. The flight carried 125 passengers and went to Wenzhou city in Zhejiang province.
Reporting by Ryan Woo, Huizhong Wu, Se Young Lee, Zoey Zhang, Colin Qian and Cheng Leng; Additional reporting by Noah Sin and Winni Zhou; Writing by Engen Tham and Emily Chow; Editing by Stephen Coates, Clarence Fernandez and Pravin Char