China has recorded no new cases of Covid-19 in the virus epicentre Wuhan or in the surrounding Hubei province, officials said.
Wuhan had previously reported thousands of new cases of coronavirus infection daily, overwhelming its health care system.
The country’s health ministry said early on Thursday that results over the past 24 hours showed 34 new cases, all detected in people arriving from abroad.
Eight new deaths were reported, all in Wuhan.
Of those new cases of infection, 21 were in Beijing, nine in the southern manufacturing centre Guangdong, two in Shanghai and one each in coastal Zhejiang and Heilongjing in the far north-east.
China has only just begun loosening strict travel restrictions within the country, but has stepped-up 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.
The country has now recorded a total of 80,928 confirmed virus cases with 3,245 deaths. Another 70,420 people have been released from hospital and 7,263 remain in treatment.
The virus continued to take its toll elsewhere, both human and economic.
Stocks tumbled again on Wall Street on fears of a prolonged recession, falling so fast they triggered another automatic trading halt, while major US car manufacturers said they were shutting down their North American factories.
Italy was on track to surpass China by Thursday in the number of deaths related to coronavirus, a gruesome milestone that is being blamed on a perfect storm of Italy’s elderly population, its overwhelmed healthcare system and its delay in imposing a complete lockdown in the epicentre, Lombardy.
Iran has also been hit hard, with more than 1,100 deaths.
Elsewhere around the world, more borders shut, leaving some to wonder how they would get back home.
In the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand shut out tourists, allowing only citizens and residents to return, while Fiji reported its first case, a worrying development in a region with poor healthcare.
The US and Canada both closed their borders to all but essential travel and US President Donald Trump said he plans to assert extraordinary powers to immediately turn back to Mexico anyone who crosses over the southern border illegally.
Russia and Mexico each reported their first death from the virus.
The virus has infected more than 218,000 people worldwide and killed over 8,800.
The United Nations warned that the crisis could lead to the loss of nearly 25 million jobs around the world.
More than 84,000 people overall have recovered from the virus, which causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as a fever and cough in most cases.
Severe illness is more likely in the elderly and those with existing health problems.
I would like to inform you that I have tested positive for #COVID19. I am doing well and in good spirits. I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team.— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) March 19, 2020
For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together.
Meanwhile, Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator for the future relationship with Britain after Brexit, said he has been infected with the virus.
Mr Barnier tweeted that he is doing well and is in good spirits.
“I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team,” Mr Barnier said. “For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together.”
Monaco’s ruler, Prince Albert II, has also tested positive for coronavirus but a palace statement said his health is not worrying.
Albert, 62, appears to be the first head of state who has publicly said he has contracted the virus.
In a statement, the palace said he is being treated by doctors from the Princess Grace Hospital, named after his US actress mother.
It says Albert is continuing to work from his home office in the palace and is in constant contact with members of his government.