© Reuters. Man wearing a Hazmat suit walks on a street in Wuhan
By Brenda Goh and Thomas Suen
WUHAN, China (Reuters) – China reported a fourth day of new coronavirus infections declining as the number of imported cases was drastically restricted by international travelers, while policymakers focused their efforts on curing the world's second largest economy.
The city of Wuhan, which was at the center of the outbreak, did not report any new cases on a sixth day when the shops reopened and residents regained a more normal life after an almost two-month ban.
It turned out that employees in masks and gloves were waiting to greet customers at the entrances to the newly opened Wuhan International Plaza, which houses boutiques of luxury brands like Cartier and Louis Vuitton.
"The Wuhan International Plaza is very representative (for the city)," said Zhang Yu, 29. "When it reopened, I really felt that this city was being brought back to life."
The number of 31 new cases on Sunday, including a locally transmitted infection, decreased from 45 the previous day, according to the National Health Commission.
As infections decrease, policymakers are trying to revitalize an economy that has been crippled by months of curbs to control the spread of the flu-like illness.
On Monday, the central bank unexpectedly cut interest rates on reverse repurchase agreements by 20 basis points, the largest in nearly five years.
The government is pressing for companies and factories to reopen as it introduces fiscal and monetary stimulus measures to fear the recovery from the prospect of a real economic downturn in the quarter to March.
China's exports and imports could deteriorate as the pandemic spreads and domestic and foreign demand depresses, Xin Guobin, the deputy minister of industry and information technology, said Monday.
The country has granted 200 billion yuan ($ 28 billion) in loans to 5,000 companies, of which 300 billion have been provided to help companies get back on their feet, Xin said.
The authorities in Ningbo said they would encourage the national banks to offer preferential loans of up to 100 billion yuan to the major export companies in the eastern port city. The city government will subsidize such loans, it said in a message.
While new infections have declined sharply since the peak in February, the authorities fear a second wave triggered by the return of Chinese, including many students.
China has cut international flights massively indefinitely since Sunday after refusing entry to almost all foreigners the day before.
Returning to work also raised concerns about possible domestic infections, especially among carriers who have no or very mild symptoms of the highly contagious virus.
The northwestern province of Gansu reported a new case of a traveler from central Hubei who returned with a virus-free health code, the national health authorities said.
According to Hubei authorities, 4.6 million people returned to work in the province by Saturday, of which 2.8 million were traveling to other parts of China.
Most of the migrant workers leaving the country went to the southern provinces of Guangdong and Fujian, to the eastern provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu and to northeastern China.
Further retail complexes and shopping streets have been reopened in Hubei's capital, Wuhan.
Electric car maker Tesla (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc has also reopened a showroom in Wuhan, said a manager of the company on Weibo.
Shoppers lined up 1 to 2 meters for temperature checks at Wuhan International Plaza while "green" cell phone codes flashed to confirm a clean health certificate.
To resume work, Wuhan residents were asked to perform two nucleic acid tests.
"It is very happy to be healthy and to leave home and meet other colleagues who are also healthy," said Wang Xueman, a cosmetic sales representative.
Interactive graphical tracking of the worldwide spread of corona virus: Open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.
(This story corrects paragraph 20 to say that Tesla Executive posted on Weibo and not on Twitter.)