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China reports no new local coronavirus cases for first time since outbreak began

China's health ministry says the city of Wuhan — the original epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic — and the surrounding Hubei province reported no new cases in the last 24 hours, providing hope in the global fight against the virus. The announcement Thursday suggests the country's strict containment measures have been effective in decreasing the number of cases.

The ministry said results over the past 24 hours showed 34 new cases in all of mainland China, and claimed all of them were detected in people arriving from abroad. Just weeks ago, Wuhan at the peak reported thousands of new cases of coronavirus infections daily, overwhelming its health care system. 

"Today, we have seen the dawn after so many days of hard effort," said Jiao Yahui, a senior inspector at the National Health Commission, The Associated Press reported. 

While the country's health ministry did not report any new cases, it recorded eight new deaths. 

China has begun loosening some of the draconian travel restrictions within the country, but has imposed 14-day quarantine regulations on those arriving in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere from overseas, amid expectations of a new influx of students and others returning home. European countries such as Italy, France and Spain that are currently grappling with the devastating virus have followed China's model in imposing lockdowns. 

The Trump administration and many health experts around the world criticized China for attempting to hide the early extent of the outbreak, slowing the global response. But more recently, World Health Organization officials have offered praise for China's cooperation.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, told "CBS This Morning" Thursday that U.S. officials are monitoring information from China and elsewhere fighting COVID-19.

"We're encouraged by the recent reports from China of no new cases," Birx said. "We're very — watching very carefully about China going back to work and seeing if that impacts the spread of the virus. So we're learning from other countries. ... We are evaluating every single country, and the data coming from that country."

However, Ben Cowling, a professor at Hong Kong University's School of Public Health, told The New York Times that while China's methods have worked so far, they're not in the clear yet.

"It's very clear that the actions taken in China have almost brought to an end their first wave of infections," Cowling said. "The question is what will happen if there's a second wave, because the kind of measures that China has implemented are not necessarily sustainable in the long term."

China has reported a total of 80,928 confirmed coronavirus cases with 3,245 deaths. Another 70,420 people have been released from hospitals and 7,263 remain in treatment.

The Associated Press contributed reporting. This story has been updated to clarify the quote from Dr. Deborah Birx.

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