China on Friday reported no new local cases of the deadly coronavirus for a second straight day, but its progress against the disease was confronted by another increase in imported infections.

The country’s drop in cases offers a ray of hope for the rest of the world as a slew of other nations go into lockdown in an effort to emulate China’s tactic against the disease.

An airport security worker wearing protective gear, amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus, looks at a screen showing international departures at Shanghai Pudong International Airport in Shanghai in March 19, 2020. Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP.

The number of deaths in China has also slowed dramatically, with the National Health Commission reporting only three new fatalities, the lowest daily increase since it started publishing figures in January.

In a grim milestone showing how the crisis has moved from Asia to Europe, China’s death toll, now at 3,248, was overtaken on Thursday by Italy, where more than 3,400 people have now died.

There have been nearly 81,000 infections in China but fewer than 7,000 people remain sick with the COVID-19 disease.

The virus is believed to have emerged in an animal market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December.

Some 56 million people in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province were locked down in late January, but authorities are progressively easing the travel curbs as cases have dwindled.

File photo: GovHK.

But China is now worried about a second wave of infections coming from abroad, prompting several regions including Beijing to force international arrivals to go into 14-day quarantine.

The health commission reported 39 more imported cases on Friday, raising the total to 228.

AFP is a global news agency delivering fast, in-depth coverage of the events shaping our world from wars and conflicts to politics, sports, entertainment and the latest breakthroughs in health, science and technology.