China reports no new COVID-19 cases for first time since pandemic began

BEIJING: China recorded no new confirmed COVID-19 cases on the mainland for May 22, the first time it had seen no daily rise in the number of cases since the pandemic began in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

The National Health Commission (NHC) said in a statement on Saturday (May 23) that this compared to four new cases on the previous day. It said, however, there were two new suspected cases: An imported one in Shanghai and locally transmitted case in the northeastern province of Jilin.

New asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus fell to 28 from 35 a day earlier, the NHC said.

China has seen a sharp fall in locally transmitted cases since March as major restrictions on people movement helped it to take control of the epidemic in many parts of the country.

However, it has continued to see an influx of imported cases, mainly involving Chinese nationals returning from abroad, while new clusters of infections in the northeastern border provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang have emerged in recent weeks.

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The official death toll in the country of 1.4 billion people stands at 4,634, well below the number of fatalities in much smaller countries.

However, doubt has been cast on the reliability of China’s numbers and the United States has led the charge in questioning how much information Beijing has shared with the international community.

The milestone comes a day after the opening of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, where Premier Li Keqiang said the country had “made major strategic achievements in our response to COVID-19”.

However he warned that the country still faced “immense” challenges.

Authorities in Wuhan have come under fire for reprimanding and silencing doctors who first raised the alarm about the virus late last year, and repeated changes to counting methodology have cast further doubt over China’s official data.

Beijing has strenuously denied accusations of a cover-up, insisting it has always shared information with the World Health Organization and other countries in a timely manner.

Since first emerging in Wuhan the virus has spread across the world, claiming more than 335,000 lives globally.

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