Three more Chinese regions lower emergency response level as virus threat recedes

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The northwestern Chinese regions of Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang and the southwestern province of Sichuan have downgraded their emergency response level after assessing that health risks from the coronavirus outbreak have receded, state media reported.

China has a four-tier response system for public health emergencies that determines what measures a region will implement, with level I the most serious.

Sichuan announced it would adjust its measures from level I to level II, while Inner Mongolia will change from level I to level III, state news agency Xinhua said on Wednesday.

Sichuan said every locality will be required to return to work and develop targeted prevention and control programs for areas still deemed “high-risk”.

The region of Xinjiang, home to China’s Muslim Uighur population, also reduced its emergency response level from I to II after reporting no new cases for seven consecutive days, the official local news portal said on Wednesday.

The provinces of Gansu, Yunnan, Guangdong, Shanxi, Guizhou and Anhui have also cut their emergency response levels in the last few days.

Some regions, including Fujian in the southeast, are also starting to dismantle emergency roadblocks designed to screen incoming vehicles and curb the contagion.

The flu-like disease, which was first detected in the city of Wuhan last December, has infected more than 80,000 people globally and killed close to 2,700 in mainland China.

The World Health Organization has said the epidemic in China peaked between Jan. 23 and Feb. 2 and has been in decline since.

With the economy reeling as a result of nationwide industrial closures and transportation disruptions, China has been urging “low-risk” regions to get back to work as quickly as possible.

An official with China’s state planning agency said on Tuesday that a more targeted approach to curbing the virus was required, and governments in low-risk areas must do their utmost to “restore order in production and life”.

A Reuters poll of economists found the Chinese economy is forecast to grow at its slowest pace in the current quarter since the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, with a worst-case scenario showing it at 3.5%, nearly half of the 6.0% reported in the fourth quarter of 2019.

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