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China Lifts Hubei Lockdown as Virus Epicenter Shifts to US


FILE - In this Jan. 30, 2020 file photo, a man wears a face mask as he stands along the waterfront in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province.

China has lifted a lockdown on Hubei province where the novel coronavirus pandemic began, while the World Health Organization warns the United States could be the next center of the outbreak.

China has lifted a lockdown on Hubei province where the novel coronavirus pandemic began, while the World Health Organization warns the United States could be the next center of outbreak.

China overall has seen vast improvements in its case load after implementing tough measures meant to keep people at home and prevent spreading the virus. Chinese health officials reported Wednesday 47 new cases, all of them among people who arrived from other countries.

The United States has seen the coronavirus spread rapidly in recent weeks, bringing its toll as of early Wednesday to about 55,000 confirmed cases with more than 700 deaths.

“They have a very large outbreak and an outbreak that is increasing in intensity,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said Tuesday, while noting increased testing in the United States could send that number higher.

A traveler wearing a face mask carries his luggage at the Beijing Railway Station in Beijing, Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

Harris said 85 percent of the newly confirmed cases Tuesday were in Europe and the United States, and 40 percent of those were in the United States.

Back to work ?

U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday he wants to see normal life resume in as early as a few weeks, while health officials say it is premature to do anything but insist on continuing measures to keep people apart so they do not spread the virus.

The U.S. Senate will vote Wednesday on a $2 trillion bill meant to help small businesses with loans, give money to families so they can spend, and to provide critically needed equipment to health care professionals who are caring for coronavirus patients.

Wednesday also brought a declaration of a state of emergency in New Zealand where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country would go into full lockdown for four weeks “to try to stop the virus in its tracks.”

New Zealand announced 50 new cases Wednesday, its highest daily total.

Almost every country infected

COVID-19 has reached nearly every country in the world, infecting 423,000 people and killing about 19,000, according to Johns Hopkins University figures early Wednesday.

Libya had been spared up until Tuesday when it announced its first coronavirus case.

Italy, which has the second highest number of cases and has seen the harshest effects recently with hundreds of deaths per day will be under stricter scrutiny as authorities seek to enforce a lockdown order that has been in place for more than two weeks.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced higher fines for those caught outside without an approved reason, raising the top punishment from about $227 to $3,300.

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