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As the coronavirus pandemic’s global epicenter in China reported no new local cases for the first time since the outbreak began, several Asian countries are now facing a second wave of infections through imported cases.
China reported that its 34 new COVID-19 cases Thursday all came from abroad. Wuhan, the city where the virus originated late last year, reported no new domestic cases -- a first for the pandemic’s epicenter where thousands once lay sick or dying in hurriedly-constructed hospitals.
“Today, we have seen the dawn after so many days of hard effort,” said Jiao Yahui, a senior inspector at the National Health Commission.
While the number of infections has slowed down in much of Asia, several countries in the region have begun reporting that a majority of new cases are coming from overseas.
Singapore reported 47 news cases, 33 of which were linked to residents returning from abroad.
Taiwan recorded 23 new cases of coronavirus linked to travel abroad in Asia, Europe and the U.S., the Los Angeles Times reported. Hong Kong reported that 22 of its 25 new cases were imported.
“I am expecting to see increases in unlinked local cases within the next two weeks -- cases in Hong Kong or Singapore who do not know how they got infected,” Ben Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong, told the paper. “These could be the third or fourth generation of infections from undetected imported cases.”
As the virus continues to spread around the world, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Communist Party have recast themselves from villains responsible for the deadly outbreak to globetrotting heroes sending supplies and doctors to hard-hit nations such as Iran and Italy, where the death tolls have reached into the thousands.
Italy surpassed China in deaths late Thursday, reaching 3,405. The virus has sickened more than 235,000 people globally and killed more than 9,700.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.